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Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 


I.D. NO. ISSN: 0735-9381 



Back Cover by Doug Pray 



PW, The Magazine That's Old Enough to Drink 

41SutterSt. No.1829 

San Francisco, CA 94104 

EXPLODING HEADS introduction 

LETTERS from our readers 

DEFENSE FARCE by wHHam brummer 

THE CLOISTERED WORKPLACE analysis by denms tiayes 

GOOD SHOOTING poem by harvey stein 

A WHITE ROSE is a WHITE ROSE... interview by med-o 

THE SITCOM VIETNAM satirical analysis by mike wilkins 

MY NUCLEAR FAMILY growing up in los alamos n.m. by g.s. Williamson 

FAT WARS fiction by j.g. eccarius 

POETRY blumenthal, hamilton, hill, posamentier 

WORK, FAMILY, COUNTRY ate in a terrorist state by ana logue 




PROCESSED WORLD is a project of 
the Bay Area Center for Art & Tech- 
nology, a California non-profit corpo- 
ration. BACAT's mailing address is 
37 Clementina St., San Francisco, 
CA 94105. Phone: (415) 495-6823. 
PROCESSED WORLD is indexed in 
the Alternative Press Index. All arti- 
cles and stories reflect the views 
and fantasies of the author, and not 
necessarily those of other contributors 
or the Bay Area Center for Art & Tech- 
nology. P. IV. is collectively edited and 
produced. No one gets paid except 
the printer. 

P.W. COLLECTIVE: Ana Logue, Zoe 
Noe, Emily Post-It, Sarkis Manouchian, 
Frog, tvlars f^ensch, R.L. Tripp, Sofia 
Furia, Primitivo Morales, Med-0, Louis 
Michaelson, Paulina Pandemonium, 
Dennis Hayes, M. Leger, Shelley 
Diamond, and others... 
WRITERS: JRS, T.E., Doug Pray, D.S. 
Black, Paul N/lavrides, William Brum- 
mer, Mark Beebe, R. Godollei, Andrea 
Kassof, Ken Brown, Anabel Manning, 
D. Minkler, Claude Ewell, Robert Thaw- 
ley," Harvey Stein, J.G. Eccarius, Jay 
Blumenthal, Granny, Mike Wilkins, 
Fritz Hamilton, Owen Hill, Evelyn 
Posamentier, and many others... 

Many people complain that they cannot see where 
their tax dollars are going, but such is not my fate. 
Whenever I am confused about being paid $1250 
per month when I'm told I make $1650, I amble 
over to the 21st floor window of my Oakland of- 
fice and. sight the materiel expression: at anchor off 
Alameda Island, the grey leviathans of the Pacific 
fleet, the nuclear aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and 
USS Carl Vinson. 

Sometimes I find myself wondering if the approxi- 
mately one hundred dollars a month I pay for de- 
fense is worth the embellishment of a nuclear fleet 
on the view from my workplace. Partisans of the 
national security state remind me that this expen- 
diture is not an aesthetic choice. Those ships are 
there to protect me from foreign enemies. I always 
find this argument amusing, since our nation hasn't 
officially been at war in my lifetime. Furthermore, 
all the peoples we've fought with unofficially --Viet- 
namese, Dominicans, Cambodians, Laotians — 
never struck me as the types to come sailing through 
the Golden Gate in a conquering Armada. We've 
always taken our problems to them. Rather than 
protecting against foreign enemies, military spend- 
ing insists on creating new ones. 

Military spending also insists on certain ways of 
living, at work and at home. This issue oi Processed 
World looks at the civilian realities of life in a mili- 
tarized society. Our aperture might be considered 
unorthodox, perhaps even narrow, since it includes 
nothing about military Keynesianism vs. the wel- 
fare-state, military economies in debt, life in the 
service, blaming it all on Reagan, etc. Instead we 
reveal the impact of even a "non-political" (as the 
non-elective government apparatus is fond of con- 
ceiving itself) military on the society it subordinates. 

In particular, most of the articles deal with the 
weird mental contortions induced by authoritarian 
conditioning, which infests civilian life just as se- 
verely as it does the military. It takes on subtler 
forms: where an Ollie North is committed simply 
to unquestioning obedience to his superior officers, 
his fans are delighted both by his supposed loyal- 
ty, patriotism, sense of duty, and by his contemp- 
tuous bad-boy attitude towcird wimpy civilian legis- 
lators. In more concentrated and drawn-out doses, 
this is the mixture that produces fascism. At pre- 
sent it reproduces the pseudo-democratic national- 
security states of the "Free World." 

Our first article, THE CLOISTERED WORK- 
PLACE by Dennis Hayes, examines the absurdi- 
ties of the need-to-know policy, a security-inspired 
segmentation of labor in the arms contracting work- 
place. Looking at the top-down enforced ignorance 
from the bottom up, Hayes discovers a willing ig- 
norance permeating nearly all military-related 
workplaces. From interviews with numerous con- 
tacts in Silicon Valley, the uncomfortable confi- 
dences of military electronics workers are implicit- 
ly revealed, as well as their complicity in maintain- 
ing ignorance. 

People who work on military-related projects 
don't just go through mental contortions while 
on the job. They bring their secrets and repressions 
home with them. G.S. Williamson grew up in just 
such an environment: the hi-tech company town of 
Los Alamos, New Mexico, home of the Atom Bomb. 
His father was a nuclear physicist, his mother a 
computer worker, and his story is told in ironic de- 

Many of us were too young to be an active part 
of the upheavals of the '60s, but most were steeped 
in '60s mass culture. Mike Wilkins' THE SITCOM 





VIETNAM takes a wry look at the sitcoms of the 
Vietnam era, as well as some of the hidden mes- 
sages they convey. While his analysis is humorous, 
it also indicates a method of cultural dissection which 
gives real insight even while lampooning the ex- 
tremes of pseudo-historical culture. 

The militarism of post- World War II U.S. society 
was exported to the world through a variety of overt 
and covert channels. The 1976 coup in Argentina, 
supported by U.S. -dominated international institu- 
tions like the IMF, was one of several similar impo- 
sitions of classic militarist/fascist models through- 
out Latin America during that decade. PW^ regular 
Ana Logue was a reporter at the Buenos Aires Herald 
during the military regime, and offers an illuminating 
anecdotal account of daily life in such a society. 
Her description of the army's "dirty war" against its 
internal opposition shows the military's most fre- 
quent role in most nations — defending the state not 
from outside invaders, but from the domestic popu- 
lation. William Brummer's DEFENSE FARCE on 
page 9 is the transcript of a conversation with 
two Afrikaner soldiers in the garrison state 
of South Africa. 

Our militarized society is certainly not without 
its opponents, even in the boring '80s. The peace 
movement has ebbed and flowed in the media atten- 
tion game, but has been a constant and probably 
growing presence at the grassroots. It has its own 
set of cultural expressions and priorities, and some 
of these come to light in A WHITE ROSE IS A 
WHITE ROSE... in which Med-O interviews 
Katya Komisaruk, the recently convicted saboteur 
of the Navy's Navstar Computer Center at Van- 
denberg Air Force Base in central California. Her 
case demonstrates one person's way of fighting a 
military less domestically-oriented and perhaps 
less immediately vicious than Argentina's, but one 

capable of atrocities on a scale that would make Nazi 
Germany (the original White Rose's bete noir) look 

Granny's Psst, AMIGO... takes us back south, 
this time to Mexico City for a Tale of Toil that pro- 
vides an inside look at the Mexican media con- 
glomerate Televisa, and the peculiar relationship 
between reality and media in a Third World power. 
The poetry pages, with a blue-light special on the 
works of Jay Blumenthal and Fritz Hamilton, give 
yet more quick takes on this militarized world in 
which "peace" means merely that the missiles have 
not yet left their silos. GOOD SHOOTING by 
Harvey Stein laughs at the gun/assassination culture 
of the contemporary U.S. This issue's fiction offering 
is J.G. Eccarius' FAT WARS, which investigates 
the dietetic consequences of superpower confrontation. 
All in all, this i'M^ continues our rich tradition of 
laughing in the face of horror. 

If you're a subscriber, and your mailing label has 
numbers 18, 19, 20 or 21 on the upper right, your 
subscription has lapsed! Please renew — your money 
is needed to keep this all-volunteer project going. 

Our next issue will focus on one of the most in- 
teresting political discussions to emerge in a long 
time — bioregionalism, biotechnology and urban 
planning. Writers, poets, humorists, and graphic 
artists, now's your chance to join the fray! 

Of course, we are always anxious for your com- 
ments, rebuttals, criticisms, and hope you will take 
the time to let us know what's on YOUR mind, 
since we already know what's on ours! Thanks to 
all who have sent us work! 

Processed World 

41 Sutter St. #1829 

San Francisco, CA 94104 USA 





Dear Processed-worlders: 

Processed World slick? Balderdash, I say! 
You want slick, go read MS. I used to read 
that 'zine religiously until the foul stink of 
yuppification became too much to bear. 
The final straw came when they ran a full- 
page ad for South Africa's DeBeers Dia- 
mond Mines ("Isn't it worth two months' 
salary!") right across from a reader's letter 
explaining how many women still can't 
crack the poverty level, even despite col- 
lege degrees. Maybe the company that 
bought MS. recently will straighten them 
out, but I'm not optimistic. 

Why do certain readers consider PW too 
slick? Because its articles are well-re- 
searched and intelligently written, and 
frequently include interesting bits of trivia 
(shades of USA Today?). Because unlike a 
lot of "underground" publications you've 
included a generous dose of humor (many 
alternative mags are so depressing — I 
usually get a couple of good yucks from 
each issue of PW). A lot of alternative 
'zines can't seem to pay much attention to 
eye appeal. Maybe it's for lack of bucks, 
lack of concern or fear of looking F»olitically 
incorrect. PW looks right at home on a 
coffee table. That's good. That's how you 
get new readers interested in alternative 

Yours truly, 
P.G.— Johnson City NY 


Dear PW: 

I was really upset with Chaz Bute's arti- 
cle Po7es 'n Holes in PW # 18. 1 was finally 
convinced by some friends to write you a 
letter explaining why I felt betrayed, and 
how hurtful that article was. 

As a woman, and a sensitive human be- 
ing, I have developed various defenses to 
protect myself in this crazy world. One of 
the first is to minimize exposure to toxicity. 
I try to eat as low on the food chain as I can, 
I read ingredients, I don't buy junk maga- 
zines, I don't own a TV set, I avoid depart- 
ment stores, I don't go into high crime 
areas alone at night. I just try to pay atten- 
tion and use my brains about what I am 
exposing myself to. 

So what's this got to do with Mr. Bufe? 
Well, one of the things I've learned is that 
the world is very complex, and there is a 
lot I don't know, and if I approach new 
ideas in a closed-off attitude, I lose much 
of the teachings that are there. 

So I read magcizines, eirticles, books, and 
attend films, lectures, etc. that are done 
by sincere people with an open mind, and 
I try to "feel," to really understand what is 
going on, what they are saying. 

That is not the attitude I take when I 
read the daily paper, or watch a Holly- 
wood film, or read Time magazine. I pay 
attention to those, too, but in a different 
way. Those are propaganda tools, con- 
sciously and deliberately used by the 
wealthy and powerful to influence and 
control the population. 

So the point I am making is that I don't 
put PW in the second group, and so I very 
unwisely put it in the first group. I allowed 
myself to read that issue with my defenses 
down. And, I got hit right in the gut with 
all that horrible woman-hatred. 

It was very painful, and I feel betrayed. 
I complained to the owner of the art store 
where I bought the issue, who seemed like 
a real person, and she convinced me to 
write to you. So I did. I wrote eight drafts 
of a letter that never got mailed. I find it 
very difficult to be up-front when there is 
a large power imbalance. And you have 
the power, and all I can do is decide to 
purchase your magazine or not. 

So I went on, in the unmailed letter, 
about how most people are attracted to 
money and power, not just women. And 
about how lame, in general the old line is: 
the reason men buy pornography is be- 
cause women won't put out. (It used to be 
"the reason men rape is because women 
won't put out.") But the letter kept rambling 
on, I couldn't get to the point, and even- 
tually it just got to be too late. 

So when your next issue came out, I was 
glad to see some of my points were made 
[in your letters section]. What is Mr. Bufe's 
response? He's glad. Instead of saying, "I'm 
sorry. I just didn't realize how mean-spirited 
I was. I don't need to make things any 
more difficult than they already are." He 
says he's glad. 

In my first, unmailed letter, I suggested 
a symbol attached to any future articles 
that, in the name of liberalism, you feel 
obliged to publish, but are designed to 
hurt people. But I duimo. I don't know if I 
should put any energy into trying to make 
it better, because I don't know how your 
group, as a whole, feels. So I think I'll just 
vent, and see what happens in the next is- 
sue or so. 

M.B.— Seattle, WA 

Dear M.B., Let me start by saying that the 
decision to pubhsh Chaz's article was not 
unanimous, and that you were not alone in 
'feeling" that something therein was amiss. 
Although I like some of the things Chaz 
had to say, and his experience was very 
evocatively recounted, I was puzzled by a 
number of his observations. 

To my mind, the article contains one too 
many blanket statements, ignores the exis- 
tence of a couple thousand years of forced 
economic dependency, and displays a real 
lack of sensitivity to the unique form of 
economic, psychological and emotional 


oppression that women undergo raised in 
our consumer-oriented society. I find that 
many radical men have trouble emotionally 
understanding the additional burdens of 
having grown up female in capitalist 
America. I guess, guys, you hadda be there. 

Despite these objections and others, the 
group decided to publish the article be- 
cause it was interesting, and because a 
controversial position or even an arrogant 
tone generates debate, and that's a good 
thing. When people get hurt, they should 
get angry! We like it when readers get mad. 
Then PW functions as the forum it was in- 
tended to be. 

Let me add that it is unwise to read any 
publication "with your defenses down" or 
avoid any that might be "hurtful. " Critical 
analysis should be applied to all perspec- 
tives. No magazine should have ')Dower" 
over any individual. 

I also suggest that if you have a specific 
critique m the future, that you pick up 
your pen and articulate it. Self-expression 
IS never an easy thing, but well worth the 
effort. Put your anger to good use rather 
than wallow in bad feelings. Good luck. 

— michelle Ip 


Dear PW, 

No, money is not a problem and I didn't 
intend to ignore you forever. I was a bit 
disgruntled that you hadn't printed any- 
thing I sent you in quite a while, so that 
when subscription renewal time came 
around I wasn't too eager to send you more 
money only to read only other people's 

I had, however, been planning to send 
you something else for several months now, 
along with a subscription renewal (give 
you another chance! HA.) But my enthu- 
siasm for doing this was not very high as 
I got sidetracked into a number of more 
absorbing projects. Here it is now, bela- 

I worked at a Fotomat store (a couple 
of them, actually) during the winter months 
of this year. If any other PW readers have 
ever worked at a Fotomat, they will ap- 

\ y < y' h- 

C ^ 

preciate my feelings about the demean- 
ingly Mickey Mouse poUcies of this nation- 
wide corporation that tries to make all its 
sales personnel look and act like carbon 
copies of each other. It was because of the 
most objectionable of these policies that I 
quit after two-and-a-half months: their 
periodic practice of sending to the stores 
spies — euphemistically called "Mystery 
Shoppers" — posing as ordinary shoppers in 
order to check on the employees' perfor- 

I wrote a couple of nasty letters to the 
regional manager expressing my disap- 
proval of this deceptive tactic, knowing of 
course that I had no power to change the 
situation. All I could do was announce my 
intention not to cooperate: I would de- 
liberately not give the sales presentation 
to anyone I suspected of being a "shopper," 
and would purposely come up with lower 
sales figures until they promised not to 
send any of these creatures my way. This 
prompted an angry call from the Boss 
while I was right in the middle of a com- 
plicated transaction. I had to make her 
wait until I was finished, which no doubt 
angered her all the more. Then she launched 
into a condescending lecture where she 
explained that this was "standard retail 
policy," that all the big department stores 
did it, etc. I pointed out to her that just 
because it's widely practiced doesn't mean 
it's right: lying and deception are still 
wrong, no matter how "standard" they are, 
and I had no intention of making a fool of 
myself by dancing to these liars' tune in 
this demeaning way, and the incentive of 
the $10 reward was just plain insulting. 

She couldn't argue that lying was wrong, 
when I pinned it down that way, but that 
didn't change anything. She visited me at 


Wt r» M ^ Z 7 

the store not long afterward and served me 
with three written "Corrective Actions" 
for my "poor attitude," which I was ex- 
pected to sign. Of course I refused. Once 
an employee gets four of these, they are 
automatically terminated; since I had only 
gotten three, I was allowed the dignity of 
quitting before being fired — she even let 
me pick the day. Thus I was allowed to 
shp out of the job gracefully, without having 
compromised my principles or my dignity, 
and with better job prospects on the hori- 
zon, so it wasn't too traumatic and didn't 
feel like a total defeat. I made my point 
and it was time to move on. 

Life is going well for me here, and get- 
ting gradually better. I'm no longer living 
like a refugee for refusing to be an office 
slave. I'm slowly feeling my way toward 
more satisfying ways of surviving and utili- 
zing my talents. I'll renew my subscription 
when I get the money order together. 

Incidentally, I loved your "Sex Issue," 
particularly the kinky "Kelly Girl" story. 
I'm one of those raunchy people who thinks 
about sex every waking minute and does 
kinky things, too. 

Bridget Reilly— Allston, MA 

It's always good to hear from you, Bridget 
It was also nice to get a legible (typed 
even!) submission — Queenie Biche 



Dear PW: 

After reading PW for more than three 
years, I want to declare myself and be- 
come a subscriber. No other publication I 
know of addresses the frustration and sad- 
ness I so often feel for the way our so-called 
civilization is turning out. 

One suggestion for future issues; I'd like 
to see more articles spend more time ex- 
ploring the alternatives. We know what 
we're against — but what are we /or? Once 
we've aired all our complaints, what kind 
of world would we like to live in? 

I especially like Summer Brermer's "Work 
Sickness at the Health Factory" (PW #20) 
for just that reason. Not only did she arti- 
culate the effects of working at Kaiser's 
Data Center in Walnut Creek, but she also 
gave us a glimpse of what she decided to 
do instead, the different employment set- 
ting she eventually chose. I'm not neces- 
sarily asking for how-to articles — I just 
want to know what everyone else is doing 
to keep from going crazy. 

In the meantime, allow me to offer up 
my own "Seven Rules for Sane Living": 
Stay well. Good health is the foundation 
of quality living. Avoid radio and televi- 
sion. It's so easy to become an electronic 
media junkie. How can we even know 
what we're thinking, if someone else's words 
and images are perpetually running through 
our minds? Don't buy stuff. Keep it simple. 
Sociologists say that an increase in the 
availability of material things in a culture 
results in a perceived decrease in the 
amount of time people feel they have. Be- 

sides, the more stuff you buy, the more 
hours you have to work to pay for it. Ride 
with the guys in the white hats. Profit is 
the prime directive for any business, but 
it's possible to find an employer whose 
professed aims at least are socially re- 
sponsible. All else being equal, it's easier 
to stuff envelopes all day for a school or 
hospital than it is for a firm that designs 
arms or a gossip rag for yuppie lawyers. 
Make time lor nonemployment interests. 
People who become ensnared in the 10-to- 
1 2-hour workday syndrome end up selling 
off their whole Uves for the sake of business 
entities that don't notice the sacrifice 
being made and wouldn't care if they did 
notice. Pay attention to your people. You 
need your spouse, your children, your 
friends — and they need you — to stay hu- 
man. Don't go it alone. Relationship is the 
antidote to this poisonous processed world. 
Yuck it up. Humorlessness is one of the 
most pernicious characteristics of the con- 
temporary corporate envirormient. Laugh- 
ter promotes wellness (as Norman Cousins 
demonstrated), permits perspective, and 
protects your humanity by making you a 
less convenient social tool. After all, whe- 
ther you don't know what they're doing to 
you or whether you do know and it makes 
you so mad you can't see straight — either 
way, they've still got their hooks in you. 

By the way, I like the larger, "slick" PW 
format, though it does make it harder to 
conceal what you're reading. But maybe 
that's good. 

S.G.— Richmond, CA 


Say, Processed heathens, how the hell are 
ya these dayzzz, hmmmmm? 

Here, at the core of the real S.S. of A. the 
procession is becoming very defined but 
no surprise save the inability of they who 
pretend 2 know better (i.e. the raison d'etat) 
until such as work station monitoring be- 
comes a condition of one's job description 
... say, i wonder if Nancy could pass the 
piss test, hmmmm? 

As 4 the matter of various degrees of 
worker surveillance — veil, vhat did you 
expect, ja? Certainly, az entrepreneurz, 
y'all can appreciate the mentality n' meth- 
odology. The question appears 2 be really 
a matter of example regarding one's re- 
solve 2 be conscientiously something more 
substantial than a worker drone of the 
$tatu$ quo. The problem, however, of the 
urbane would be radicals remains the di- 
lemma of all who would enjoy hfe 2 the full 
and attempt 2 escape the relationship of 
having it both ways... unfortunately, often 
at the expense of the "less developed" 
countries. Indeed, the member/citizenship 
requirement demands conformity, obe- 
dience, and (after all) allegiance... 

Therefore the solution is rather not so 
much a matter of what 2 do az it iz a cru- 
cial matter of doing so no longer. 

However! propaganda of the deed! Aside, 
the crux uv this matter kumz down 2 the 
matter ov objective and reason 4 being... 
that iz, unless yer bottom line is merely a 
genre ov entertainment in which case fur- 
ther publication (ov drone humor and sym- 
bolic rebeUion) better serves management 


nla'rPW folks- , have itchy feet. Driv- } 

are loose mtneir u . ^frnv 5 

C^^'^ „,r-i. "A world o< many l^nds ^^ 

SOUTH AFRICA: A ^ jeur, animal King 

r?<,ue "-■^^'^'^ eHst^s.-the puUaUon of 





^ vool was able to clear 
Last night, on Spandau ^;Pi ^^^ ^^^ ,,, , .n- 
the dust and ice i^o^J^l^^ on its homeward 
^uclant visitor,^he Co^^^^^^ ^^^ ,^, go so far, 

nowenng late a= — 


and korporate authority — here there is not 
even the pretense of working 4 freedom 
(arbeit macht frei) az with 4mer sociahst 
apparatz. Then again, if the counterpoint 
iz alternatives 2 hves of quiet desperation 
and degrees ov destruction (theze selvez 
or that indigenous/surplus population all 
made possibly by our complacency and 
cooperation) the issue (hopefully #22) must 
be regarding those modalities and neces- 
sary skills which would enable an other- 
wise institutionalized herd 2 actually ex- 
perience autonomy. 

Obiter Dicta — Folsom Prison, CA 

Obiter — We hope you don't mind the cuts 
we made to your letter. We welcome fur- 
ther correspondence, but we don't have 
room to print more than a couple of pages. 
— Reina Represa 


Dear Gentlepersons: 

I enjoyed your 20th issue on our health 
"care" system. As my daughter has an 
hereditary illness, I well appreciate some 
of the shortcomings of the American 
medical system(s). 

Might I suggest a theme for an upcoming 
issue? How about thought control in 
America. YAWN. Yeah, I know it's not a 
new concept. But how about a new ap- 
proach, e.g. a systems approach? Forget 
about intentions good or bad, govenmient 
or private. Just explore the cultural/nation- 
al characteristics that suppress those good 
old input/output relationships. That means 
trying to consider the whole ball of wax. 
Government censorship such as "classify- 
ing" materials so they can't reach the 
public domain, denying visas to contro- 
versial persons from other nations, an edu- 
cational system that, for whatever reason, 
is oriented toward producing good little 
cogs for our industrial/high tech era rather 
than original thinkers who might be diffi- 
cult to manage, a mass media that tends 
to avoid material that might offend the 
more powerful interest group, a culture 
that values conformity second only to 
wealth, an art world that precludes "poUti- 
cal" art but does not preclude giving kudos 
to dissident artists from eastern bloc coun- 
tries, corporate harassment and layoffs of 
social activists promoting unpopular 
causes... and put it all together. Can you 
or anyone do that?! As Solzhenitsyn wrote, 
"Without any censorship in the West, 
fashionable trends of thought and ideas 
are fastidiously separated from those that 
are not fashionable, and the latter without 
ever being forbidden, have little chance 
of finding their way into periodicals or 
books or being heard in colleges. Your 
scholars are free in the legal sense, but are 
hemmed in by prevailing fad... This gives 
birth to strong mass prejudices, to a blind- 


ness which is perilous in our dynamic era." 
And, oh yes, be thankful that you live in 
one of the benign parts of this land, north- 
ern California. 

L.P. — Sacramento, CA 


Dear PW, 

Here's a check to renew my subscription. 
I guess that makes three years of subscri- 
bing. What I like: the graphics and the 
more analytical articles which help us to 
understand current scenarios in terms of 
larger systems, corporate priorities and 
actions. These articles help me to "run the 
scenarios" and project accurately how the 
boss will behave, how the corporations 
will behave, and how the society/organ- 
ism will behave. What I don't like, and you 
don't do so much anymore, is the whining 
approach: feeling sorry for oneself because 
the boss doesn't (1) take us seriously as 
human beings rather than lower life forms 
(2) give us what we need because it's right 
or because we need it or (3) take it per- 
sonally when the boss misbehaves. Bosses 
are really just dumb people suffering from 
a terrible, rarely cured disease (Bossitis, 
it is a.k.a. authoritarianism) in which they 
are manipulated into believing that co- 
operation and workers' choice-making 
leads, not to demonstrably higher produc- 
tivity, creativity, product leadership and 
ultimately profitability, but instead to the 
overthrowing of authority: this last of course 
may happen, but Bossitis has among its 
symptoms narrowing of the field of vision 
to eliminate certain possibilities while 
making artificial imperatives seem larger 
than life. It's a terrible disease and I feel 
sorry for those folks with their related health 
problems of heart disease, alcoholism, 
eating disorders, etc. My mom used to say 

that if you're gonna keep somebody in the 
gutter, you got to get in there with 'em to 
keep them there, and health is the price 
some of these people pay, while believing 
they are happy. It ain't much of a life. 

H.G.— Cambridge, MA 
Alas, most of my bosses these days are 
well-fed and exercised yuppies who threat- 
en to live forever — not the fat, alcoholic, 
chest-clutching patheticos you describe. 
I say, the sooner out of the way the better. 
— Cretin Borgia 


Dear PW, 

I'm not sure whether you lot at PW have 
decided to join the bubbly boycptt band- 
wagon or not, but it nevertheless was a 
refreshing experience to discover PW (a 
few dusty, mislaid ones) in the corner of a 
notorious bookshop in Jo'burg. We haven't 
been raided for days, the owner said as I 
paid my hardly-worth-anything rands. I 
could only afford #16 and #18, the first 
being of particular interest because of the 
article on that radically chic apartheid- 
is-such -a -nice-dirty-word-to-say country, 
South Africa. 

I am a critical Afrikaner who works as a 
translator/editor for a government institu- 
tion because the hours are nice, the beach 
is real close, and also because there is no 
other work in Cape Town. I don't think the 
(white) minority has the right to subjugate 
the (black) majority, as they are doing at 
present. I also don't support the ANC be- 
cause I don't believe a future ANC govern- 
ment has the right to slaughter a (white) 
minority, as they probably will do. In fact, 
I think South African organized politics is 
not worth thinking about. And if you do 
think, you get wires tied around your balls. 
Nice choice, eh? 

CLOTHHS WuXKfi iW.i\^ 


I read the article on the security situation 
in SA (I presume the author did some field 
work here before he embarked on the arti- 
cle) and beneath the usual load of factual 
errors, generalizations and out-of-context 
sketching of scenarios (why can't foreign 
journalists ever get it right?) I found a fresh, 
thought-provoking theory of South Africa 
as the security laboratory of the world. 
Sort of let's see how far the South Africans 
can push their luck, just for our own future 
reference. It is a fact that the South Afri- 
can security systems, be it on the basis of 
technology or manpower, are among the 
most advanced in the world. 

I also appreciate the fact that the author 
did not come up with PW's plan for a per- 
fect post-apartheid SA. I have great respect 
for Americans in their own right, but have 
only one problem when they're not talking 
about America. The one half of the problem 
is that they always have solutions for the 
dilemmas of other people. The other half 
of the problem is that their solutions usually 
don't work or, worse still, work like a three 
legged horse. It didn't work in Vietnam. 
It is not working in South America. What 
makes you so sure that whatever you are 
planning for us in SA is going to work? 

No one can blame young blacks for be- 
coming restless. No one can blame whites 
for arming themselves in reaction to that. 
The blame should have been laid at some- 
one's door forty years ago. And another 
thing, and this is an accusation brought 
against the rest of the world by the whole 
of Africa — when last was something posi- 
tive said about this continent? War in Sudan 
and Namibia, famine in Ethiopia and 
massacres in Uganda and Mozambique 
make good TV fare. But a newly built 
school or a record crop isn't good for the 
ratings, is it? In fact, if I was an easily de- 
pressed South African I would have shot 
myself after reading PW's article, no matter 
how accurate or objective it was. Frankly, 
South Africans are tired of hearing about 
conflict and how bad things are in their 
country especially when young workers 
such as myself, who do not have the money 
to start over again in cozy Sydney or 
Toronto, know we are going to have to stick 
it out here and make the best of it. 

Don't fool yourself with stuff like embar- 
goes, boycotts and money for this or that 

"Look — civilization!" 

political organization to try and "assist 
the process." It does not work. Maybe you 
WANT to cause a Beirut here. Then right, 
go ahead. Maybe in twenty or thirty years' 
time it might happen. But maybe you 
would like to help avoid it. Read on. The 
great needs in South Africa to ensure a 
better future is Black education and com- 
munity development, as well as job crea- 
tion for everybody. You are not really 
supporting those ideals by boycotting. Will 
the American volunteer teachers in Soweto 
put up their hands? Thank you. 

Thanks for slapping the face of hi-tech 
authority, spitting in the eye of magazine 
design and re-inventing journalism. I do, 
however, find the odd caustic and blubbery 
references to SA (not the SA government, 
not big business but SOUTH AFRICA) in 
satire and graphics just for the sake of spi- 
cing up someone's wet dream offensive, to 
say the least. How about being a little more 
specific, fellows? It's not that I'm a patriotic 
nut, but you do believe in the beginning 
God made California and on the second 
day created San Francisco, don't you? 
Well a little further on he created a place 
in the sun for me as well, and I care about 
it. I can't go anywhere else. 

C.D. —Cape Town, South Africa 


What a surprise to phone PW (not the 
Botha variety) and hear that a letter ar- 
rived from South Ahrica. Having hand- 
dehvered Processed World to that "botor- 
ious bookshop in Jo'burg, " as well as a few 
others, I wondered if such a radical, irrev- 
erent publication could survive beyond a 
fortnight. Apparently so. I'm glad it was 
found by a critical Afrikaner who not only 
hund "South Africa: Laboratory of Repres- 
sion " a reteshing and offensive article but 
wrote to tell us why. 

"Ag man!" (Ack maan) Do all white 
South Aticans suffer from the same bloody 
complex that the Whole-World-Is-Railed- 
Against-Them? True, S.A. has become 
everybody's favorite whipping post; a con- 
venient scapegoat for the mass media and 
western politicians to look far, far away 
instead of in the mirror at the ugly face of 
racism and rule by violence. Here the S.A. 
problem' has been capitalized on by pub- 
lic figures who can 't or won 't combat the 
effective apartheid between Southside/ 
Northside Chicago or East Oakland and 
San Francisco. Okay, the U.S. has a talent 
for disguising its own dirt. Still, don't you 
think apartheid is abominable and war- 
rants worldwide confrontation? Conflict, 
racial struggle in particular, is the funda- 
mental reality for S.A. Averting your eyes 
or wishing the press would report positive 
developments (and there are many) won't 
change this overarching character of daily 
I just wish the rest of the world was as 

critical of the U.S. as we are of S.A. Most 
Americans wallow in the opposite complex 
to South Africans: "We're- § 1-and-the-world 
adores-us." America truly deserves that #7 
rating when it comes to selling arms and 
drugs, exporting pollution and carcinogens, 
proliferating nuclear weapons, and desta- 
bilizing other governments. The lack of a 
broad-based resistance against all this is 
as horrihc as the Vietnam war, depressing 
as organized politics in the '80s. One of the 
crucial obstacles to changing this, how- 
ever, is overcoming the intense nationalism 
and xenophobia gripping the U.S. and 
other developed nations.' 

I agree with you that international boy- 
cotts against S.A. are not the answer. I do 
believe that if it was actually possible to 
implement comprehensive sanctions then 
the 'Nats' would be forced to dismantle 
apartheid and this is probably the only 
nonviolent process. But given S.A.'s im- 
mense resources and the irreconcilable 
schisms between competing nation-states, 
global capital has and will continue to 
subvert whatever sanctions governments 
may impose. In fact, limited sanctions 
have Increased profits for brokers poised 
to exploit the risky S.A. market. The arms 
embargo during the Carter administration 
reveals how 'principled' policy can result 
in gnarly, unintended consequences. The 
embargo forced S.A. to increase domestic 
weapons production so much that by the 
early '80s it became an arms exporter. 
Now is that progress? 

I find your call for "community develop- 
ment and black education" bound by the 
same double-edged notion of progress. 
Sure, such improvements are desperately 
needed, particularly in the impoverished 
homelands.' But it is too much like re- 
forming prisons by making them self- 
managed. The inmates can decide they 
will be served great meals, read stimula- 
ting books, even build a beautiful theatre, 
anything as long as the bars and guards 

No matter how many govt, projects or 
well-intentioned teachers try to improve 
life in the townships, the school of hard 
knocks black youth receive while in deten- 
tion, at the workplace, or in the street is 
what fundamentally determines their 
quality of life. Their anger and desire to 
revolt will not be fixed by better schools 
or development. I know it's an old story 
but the only real solution is the complete 
transformation ofS. African society which 
only starts by ending apartheid. 

Many think they are thinking 

when they are merely rearranging 

their prejudices, 


P.S. God didn't create S.F. on the second 

day. Really it was the Goddess of Sand 

Fleas and a small tribe of natives who were 

bohemian enough to stay only when the 

fleas weren 't. 


hot under the helmet in South Africa 

Human: Ja, we got those hippos. 
You know the Buffel? It's one of 
the vehicles we use. A troop 
carrier... an anti-land mine vehicle 
that's got a v-shaped chassis, so a 
blast only takes off a wheel. No 
one gets hurt. 

duToit: What do you want to 
bet? I picked up a hitch-hiker — 
he had his whole bloody neck in 
plaster. He was a National Ser- 
viceman. I thought: this guy's in 
a sorry way. So I pulled up, 
loaded him in, and I said, "Hell, 
what happened to you, man? 
Were you hit by a bloody kung 
fu exjjert?" He said, "No, we were 
all travelling in this bloody troop 
carrier. Hit a landmine." 
Human: Wasn't strapped on. 
duToit: Nobody was hit by 
shrapnel. The/ve got armor plate 
glass this thick, OK, at the win- 
dows. That incredible shock, that 
toowi — everybody's head hits the 
bloody roof, they crack skulls, 
they put necks out of joint. 

Human: The police don't shoot 
people. When I go into Mamelodi, 
Fve got a 9 mm. [pistol] here, I've 
got an Rl rifle here, I've got a 
Stupa rifle here, with handgren- 
ades, anti-riot gas, and rubber 
bullets, 37 mm. gas pistol, and all 
that stuff. But you never shoot. 
Those stories of police just open- 
ing fire — crap! We've worked with 
the police. The people that they 
bury there — they're not strong 
people, they just go down into the 

When you go in there with 
armored vehicle, when you stop 
at a stop street, there are about 
2-3 children, of this age [holds up 

his hand to indicate a child about 
four and a half feet high], around 
you. The next moment, there are 
around 1-2 thouscind around you. 
Now you must go and try to get 
through that; that's the worst thing 
of all. You're alone. That's where 
self-defense now starts. 

We never so much as shoot 
"people, never, never. What we 
do, is give them the gas. Enough 
gas, I can tell you that. Anti- 
riot tear gas. We never shoot 
them. OK, one or two rubber 
bullets just to scare them off. 

But you see, this whole fight 
here has nothing to do with the 
police, or the army. We're just 
there to protect the willing and 
able people that still wemt to work, 
that still want to go to work and 
all that. We're just there to protect 
them from being killed and all that. 

There's several people there — 
they got trained from ANC [Afri- 
can Nation2d Congress] — that's 
ANC people that's in there. We 
don't find them, we never fought 
them. It'sjust we — they start 
burning houses, then we just go 
and protect the people that's in 
the houses, or the people that's 
got nothing to do with the whole 
thing. That's cdl we do. 

duToit: A black policeman has 
got a bloody death warrant on his 

William Brummer: They're the 
ones being necklaced. 
Human: They're not fighting 
because we got white skin, or he's 
got a black skin — that's got noth- 
ing to do with the whole thing. At 
Sonshanguve they've got a police 
station there. They've got single 

quarters where the jx)licemen stay, 
and they're all blacks— 150 blacks— 
working in the police station. The 
police chief is also a black. He's 
a commandment, or colonel, or 
something. Then you get this 
Mapochpong, that black town- 
ship. Around the headquarters, 
they got these Arab Allen fences, 
just an ordinary high fence you 
can't climb over. 
duToit: It's eight foot high. 
Human: They caught one of the 
policemen just outside the fence. 
They grabbed him, dragged him 
into town, tied a tire around his 
neck, around here [f)oints to hips], 
and another one here [legs]. They 
lighted him. 

All right, we were patrolling. 
We thought it was wood or some- 
thing burning. The only way we 
could recognize that's a person 
that's burning was by his smell. 
That's the only thing. We thought 
it was just wood burning there. 

The war is not between black 
and white. There's no such thing 
like apartheid. I don't know where 
they get that... 

Human: On TV they make such 
a big fuss, but there's bugger £ill 
going on [in Mamelodi]. Nothing. 
I don't know why. We took some 
videotapes from the BBC to our 
headquarters, we show them there 
on the screen, [curses] I don't 
know where they get all that shit. 
They show things there. . .they're 
bloody good at mixing the films, 

by William Brummer 

the tapes. When you look at that 
film you never get to the story; 
they'll always put you in the 
wrong. Altered. We spent the 
whole day with them, we worked 
with them, stopped them from 
makmg shit and all that, the whole 
day — it's not so bad, like they 
show on TV. I don't know where 
they get that material. Honestly 
I don't know . 

We complicate — we confiscated 
it the day before yesterday. Me 
and a Lieutenant confiscated six 
BBC videotaptes. It's not the regu- 
lar VHS and Beta tapes — quite 
a thick tape. We got hold of it, 
we arrested the hoax. 

You should have checked the 
crap that was on that tape. 
Nyahh... [fumes inaudibly] 


Arm of the Emergency Processed World peripatetic correspondent William Brummer gets an earful from two Afrikaners in 
Pretoria: Kurt Human (pronounced Ae-man) and Mark duToit. 

Military Electronics 
Workers Take Vows 
oj Ignorance in . . . 



he 4th of July Air Show at Moffet Field provides 
a festive interlude during which Silicon Valley shows 
off its least understood and most silently birthed 
offspring: high technology, military issue. The jet 
fighters, assault helicopters, and spy planes attract 
half a million spectators— the largest public gathering 
of the year. 

Laden with computers and microchips, the mili- 
tary aircraft return to the Valley like prodigal sons. 
Estimates of the livelihoods that depend on military 
spending in the Valley run as high as 50%. The 
Valley's largest employers are prime military con- 
tractors. It is the hub for the $55-$60 billion mili- 
tary electronics industry, a development site for 
most missiles, a funnel for military artificial intelli- 
gence R&D, a design center for Star Wars programs 
and for the avionics aboard most combat aircraft 
and bombs. 

Concerning its military pre- 
ponderance, Silicon Valley is 

not so much boastful as resigned: 
without the military, the Ameri- 
can electronics industry might 
never have been. In fact, there 
are signs of a timid but wide- 
spread resentment toward the 
military subsidy, which favors 
large corporations over the fabled 
entrepreneur, and which has 

made Silicon Valley an incuba- 

tor of unwholesome technology. 

Many people say they would 
rather not work for prime military contractors. Some 
refuse to. Stanford University students attend oc- 
casional protests at Lockheed Space and Missile 
company. A distinct minority, inactive politically in 
any conventional sense, display bumper stickers that 
proclaim "A World Beyond War" — the therapeutic 
message of a Palo Alto based national organization 
that advocates peaceful thinking as the path to 
world peace. 

The noisy July 4th Air show, which ties up traf- 
fic and closes down commuting channels, provides 
a rare focus for these resentments. The rest of the 
year the military presence is camouflaged. Unseen, 
like the $3 million underground bunker that is 

"How much less lethal is 
writing an accounting pro- 
gram that enables the Air 
Force to operate more effi- 
ciently than making chips 
that will guide its bombs to 
their targets?" 

equipped with computers and two weeks of provi- 
sions for 70 Santa Clara officials who hope "to keep 
the city running" after a nuclear holocaust. Or dis- 
guised, like the Lockheed engineers who periodi- 
cally visit Valley grade schools to treat children to 
"Mr. Wizard" science shows — but who spend most 
of their time designing satellites and missiles for 
use in a nuclear holocaust. 

The most enigmatic camouflage is that which 
keeps knowledge of military products from the pro- 
ducers themselves. It is woven from a decades-old 
tradition of workplace secrecy. At primary contrac- 
tors, explicit policies forbid workers from knowing 
a product's final use. Instead, they are offered pro- 
ject nicknames, a technical language, and a narrow 
way of looking at work; these obscure military pur- 
pose and, in the process, probably undermine pro- 
duct quality. Less formal but 
comparable policies produce 
similar results at military sub- 
contractors. As a result, a spe- 
cial ignorance structures life in 
the classified cubicles and shops 
of military electronics. Those 
who prepare the battlefields of 
the future need not dwell on the 
horrors of war to perform their 
work. The air show's family 
entertainment format caters to 
this sensibility: there are air- 
strikes without casualties, ex- 
ploding napalm bombs without 
burning flesh. 

For those prone to troubled consciences, the 
secrecy is both functional and lonely. The prohibi- 
tion of product application knowledge creates a 
"black box" productive culture in which work's pur- 
pose is ignored or forgotten. When programmers 
write "graphics display software" rather than missile 
performance reports, when rocket engineers hold 
back from discussing their work with friends, they 
shield themselves from responsibility for the horror 
their work makes possible. When fellow workers 
carry on like this, it imbues the workplace with odd 
loneliness. That which they share in common- 
work— creates that which they must avoid talking 
about — work's products. 



The loneliness of military electronics 
workers often extends beyond their work- 
places. During an interview, I asked a 
Lockheed Space and Missile Company 
project coordinator what he worked on. 
He replied that he could not be specific. 
He paused and then said "everybody 
knows that Lockheed makes missiles and 
spacecraft. It says that on the door. And 
I am not working on missiles." He then 
spoke of his wife, who also worked at 
Lockheed. Because each had a separate 
security clearance, however, they could 
not, and did not, talk to each other about 
their work. Sometime after the interview, 
husband and wife separated. 

The military electronics worker's si- 
lence and isolation are redolent of the 
medieval monastery, its monks busy 
transcribing those works of antiquity 
deemed worthy by the papal censors. By 
accepting that certain questions are for- 
bidden, even certain phrases unutterable, 
military electronics workers take vows 
of ignorance as well as of obedience. In 
exchange, they can imagine they have 
relinquished responsibility for their work 
to a higher authority. In the military 
electronics cloister, these imaginings are 
undeterred, and the silence is welcome. 

The Forbidden Fruit 

Behind a formica reception desk at a 
large microchip firm, a display case lists 
the day's special visitors: 


Litton Guidance 

Hughes Aircraft 



Inside, "applications engineers" help 
these and other customers design logic 
for military and business microchips. In 
its startup days, the firm did little mili- 
tary work. But a slumping civilian mar- 
ket led first to military subcontracting— 
designing chips for primary defense con- 
tractors—and then to classified work for 
the National Security Agency. One of 
the unclassified application engineers is 
Jeff, a Stanford E.E. graduate several 
months into his first electronics job. 

The title "application engineer" is pe- 
culiar. For "security reasons," Jeff says, 
none can know their military customers' 
chip applications. This stricture does not 
impede their work. To design micro- 
chip logic for a Raytheon or Litton chip, 
Jeff need not know that it will store mi- 
crocode for an on-board missile guidance 
system that may one day claim thousands 
of lives. "I don't know what it's used for, 
what system it's part of. . . usually only 
the company's name," Jeff says. Yet he 
is vaguely aware that Litton Guidance, 
Hughes Aircraft, Lockheed, and Ray- 
theon are major military contractors. He 

also has informal access to project- 
specific information at his workplace. 
Away from work, over pizza and beer, 
Jeff acknowledges that his company 
currently has six Lockheed contracts. 
From gossip among fellow engineers he 
has gleaned that some of the chips are 
destined for a radiation-detecting satel- 
lite device. I suggest that it may be con- 
nected to the Milstar project — Star Wars. 
"It's just a part to me," saysjeff. 

For Jeff, the moral or political impli- 
cations of his work, its probable contri- 
bution to space-based missiles, the ques- 
tion of whether it increases the likeli- 
hood of war, are separate issues from the 

tasks he performs every day. This sepa- 
ration between work and work's product 
does not create tension for Jeff— nor is 
his aloofness exceptional. On such issues 
Jeff stands with most of the other appli- 
cations engineers, steeped in a culture 
of collective avoidance that is officially 
encouraged by their employers and 
Pentagon sponsors. 

Fred once worked as an auditor for 
an oil company but now works for Lock- 
heed as a software programmer with a 
secret clearance. The security "doesn't 
bother" him: "Maybe I've just gotten 
used to it." Fred has grown accustomed 
to other things at Lockheed: 






"I'm not thrilled with the application. 
What I do nicely separates itself from 
the application though, because what 
our graphics system produces is nothing 
different from what you might see in a 
magazine if they were plotting the gross 
national product year to year. So where 
my thinking goes every day, it's got no- 
thing to do with those big nasty missiles." 

Fred writes system-level code for a gra- 
phics package that displays data in a 
time/history plot. The software is not 
classified, but the data it handles will be. 
The data come from Trident missiles 
whose warheads are loaded with trans- 
ducers and sensors that transmit in-flight 
performance records to Fred's software 
package. Aided by a work setting that 
divides programming assignments zimong 
fellow workers, his distance from the 
application is nearly infinite: 

"It's very easy not to think about it 
[i.e., the missiles]. . .the finished product 
for me is when they can take data and 
put it on the screen. I get to see all of 
that. I don't see where that data comes 
from [i.e., the missiles]. . .my product 
is a very small piece of a large thing 
which includes submarines and all kinds 
of things [e.g., missiles]. But the thing 
that I directly work on, I feel like I see 
the whole thing. That may be kind of 

At Qubix, a start-up company, laugh- 
ter and enthusiastic chatter punctuate a 
programmers' meeting. Before a white 
board bearing cryptic symbols, a presen- 
tation of Qubix software unfolds. The 
talk is sophisticated, specific, but makes 
no mention of Qubix' first customer— 
or the customer's use for Qubix work- 

When queried later on these topics, 
most Qubix workers acknowledge that 
the customer is General Dynamics. Asked 
if General Dynamics makes assault jets, 
airborne missile-and-gun systems, and 
cruise missiles, many plead ignorance. 
Their ignorance is hard to credit. At the 
time, front-page articles are breaking the 
story of General Dynamics' Pentagon 
scandal. Many of the articles describe 
General Dynamics' long line of military 
products. Uninformed or not, Qubix 
people are bothered by my entreaties. 
Their responses suggest that military 
products are unpopular topics of con- 

The ethics of making war material 
constitute an unspoken dialogue among 
electronics workers. A widespread and 
informal self-censorship complements of- 
ficial boundaries on what workers can 
know, and this tends to preempt con- 
versations. Of "big nasty missiles," Fred 
says he and his (approximately 70) fellow 
employees "don't talk much about that 

kind of thing. I think the people around 
me tend to feel the same way. Like I say, 
I stay away from politics." The social 
silence sustains a contrived, if awkward, 
innocence. For example, Fred let on 
that he knew surprisingly little about 
Lockheed's operations. He wasn't sure 
what went on inside the Blue Cube (the 
U.S. military satellite command center 
adjacent to Lockheed Sunnyvale), or 
that Lockheed workers staffed the Blue 
Cube, only that "I presumed, just the 
way people talked, that more highly 
classified work went on there." 

The Manhattanization of 
Military Electronics 

The censorship, formal and informal, 
that pervades the contractor's workplace 

is a legacy of the military's tutelage of 
microelectronics. The rationale is that 
the less workers know, the less capable 
they are of sharing secrets with hostile 
agents. The centerpiece of this world view 
is the "need-to-know" policy adopted by 
virtually all primary military contractors 
performing classified work since World 
War II. 

The need-to-know policy is adapted 
from the hallowed tradition of the niili- 
tary mission. In the military, the concern 
is not so much that access to privileged 
information may result in loss of life, 
but that it may compromise the mission. 
(This is the spirit of the wartime slogan, 
"loose lips sink ships," which reminded 
sailors and civilians to avoid discussing 
fleet destinations and embarkation dates 

In the US 2/3 rds of All VDT Operators Are Monitored. 


The VDT Ck>alttion consictefs computer monitoring of keystrokes, work-breaks, conections 
and individual wofk perfomnanoe an invasion of privacy For more information contact 

VDT Coalition, 2521 Channing Way, Berketey CA 94720 (41 5) 642-5507 



that might reach enemy ears.) This policy 
implies that those who actually carry 
out the mission, i.e., the subordinates 
whose lives are at stake, are kept in the 
dark by their superiors until the last 
possible moment. 

The arms industry's need-to-know 
policies are thus an intrusion of military 
convention in the workplace, a tradition 
already apparent in the chain of command 
and line or staff models for dividing work- 
place authority. We are reminded of this 
lineage by the policy's workplace debut 
in 1942 during work on the Manhattan 
Project — the code name for the United 
States government's atomic bomb de- 

Then, as now, the need-to-know policy 
created an atmosphere approaching that 
of the Inquisition. The best possible 
workplace was one purged of all but the 
minimum amount of technical detail re- 
quired to complete a project. Project 
managers denied workers knowledge of 
product research and fabrication pro- 
cesses that did not directly bear on their 
work tasks. Project information — espe- 
cially regarding the project's destination 
and use — was strictly and hierarchically 
controlled. Of the 150,000 persons who 
worked on the Manhattan Project, per- 
haps a dozen were allowed a "compre- 
hensive overview of the project's plans 
and objectives" (Davis, W.F. "The 
Pentagon and the Scientist"). 

Four and a half decades later, a com- 
parable minority of the workers who re- 
ceive clearances are trusted with "com- 
prehensive knowledge." For the rest, 
classified status does not, as popularly 
imagined, confer access to privileged 
knowledge. Instead, it means working 
more or less blindly. 

If the public rationale for the need- 
to-know policy is minimizing espionage, 
its practical effect on employees' daily 
lives is to stifle awareness and discourage 
discussion of the hostile technology they 
create. This custom dates from the policy's 
first civilian application. Manhattan 
Project electrical engineer Robert Odell 
recalls working on the top secret project 
in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that developed 
the radioactive material used in the first 
atomic bombs dropp>ed on Hiroshima 
and Nagasaki: 

"I was among those who thought we 
were developing a new kind of fuel. 
Others thought it must be an explosive. 
You didn't ask questions. . .We were having 
a meeting in July of 1945 and one of the 
supervisors got a phone call in an ad- 
joining room. It was from New Mexico. 
He came back with a big smile on his 
face and said, 'It went off with a big bang.' 
That was the first time it really hit me." 
[emphasis added] (from a reminiscence 

in the Milwaukee Journal, August 5, 1985). 

Today, the Pentagon continues to m- 
sulate the classified workplace with the 
need-to-know policy. In its Industrial 
Security Manual for Safeguarding Classified 
Information, the government sheds this 
definition of a worker's need to know: 

"... a determination made by the 
possessor of classified information that a 
prospective recipient, in the interest of 
national security, has a requirement for 
access to, knowledge of, or possession of 
the classified information in order to 
perform tasks or services essential to the 
fulfillment of a classified contract or 
program. . ." 

The policy is variously implemented. 
At most primary contractors, including 
Lockheed (Silicon Valley's largest), the 
security classifications, in descending 
order of privilege, are top secret, secret, 
and confidential. Workers who share a 
clearance status, e.g., top secret, are 
also often segregated by project-specific 
clearances. That means they cannot ex- 
change work-related information or 
enter each other's project area unescorted. 
Improprieties are "security breaches" 
whose implications may transcend the 
wrath of management, perhaps tripping 
the alarm of "national security." 

What determines the level of clearance? 
Apparently, the Department of Defense 
(DOD) deems this question too sensitive 
to answer unequivocally lest the clear- 
ance title reveal the nature of a classi- 
fied project. According to the Safeguarding 
manual, "top secret" refers to information 
or material "the unauthorized disclosure 
of which reasonably could be expected 
to cause exceptionally grave damage to the 
national security." The disclosure of 
"secret" material could be expected to 
cause "serious damage, " while leaks of 
"confidential" information could be ex- 
pected to cause mere '^damage. ' Elaboration 
as provided in the DOD Manual, is vague. 

Working to classified military speci- 
fications means that workers always 
have a ready excuse not to discuss the 
content of their work with their families 
or friends, or even among themselves. 
The atmosphere also discourages dis- 
cussion of the military contractor's pro- 
duct line. For example, classified Lock- 
heed machinists, plumbers, carpenters, 
and composite workers cannot openly 
acknowledge, even if they suspect, that 
they build missile parts. Companies in- 
struct employees that shop talk off the 
shop floor is forbidden, or worse — 
grounds for clearance revocation, which 
may mean job loss (if the firm cannot 
or will not find unclassified work for the 
offender). A worker whose record bears 
the demerit of a clearance revocation is 
an unlikely job candidate for civilian or 

military work, since the demerit creates 
a subversive aura that most employers 
find troubling. 

Of course, there is scarcely a work- 
place in which work-related gripes and 
gossip can be stifled. This the classified 
workplace does not attempt. "You can 
let off steam," the Lockheed project co- 
ordinator observes — as long as the steam 
has been purged of overt references to 
the work's military nature. But the 
military gag rule constricts the boun- 
daries of acceptable, spontaneous dis- 
cussion among most workers increas- 
ingly as the level of clearance moves 
from confidential to top secret. Among 
Lockheed programmers, the social im- 
plications of making missiles, not to 
mention the alternatives to doing so, are 
topics that fall outside the boundaries. 
"Like I say," Fred reminds us, "I stay 
away from politics." 

The Forest from the Trees 

How is it possible for workers to create 
classified products without knowing 
what the products actually do? 

One answer, suggested by the Penta- 
gon's perennial acquisition of badly de- 
signed and malfunctioning equipment, 
is that workers cannot produce blindly 
without compromising quality. To the 
extent that classified production can pro- 
ceed, it does so through a highly evolved 
division of labor that transcends, and is 
often at odds with, capitalist efficiency. 

Since Charles Dickens and Frederick 
Engels, the division of labor has been 
constantly reprimanded. These authors, 
and many since, decried the stunting of 
mind, body, and soul on the assembly 
lines of capitalism, zmd later, of socialism. 
The critiques varied, but not in their 
essentials: workers feel alienated from 
their subdivided and boring work tasks 
and disconnected from products they do 
not freely choose to create or cannot 
control. This was the inevitable conse- 
quence of organizing the labor process 
to maximize production. 

To meet project deadlines and to re- 
duce notorious cost overruns, military 
contractors also attempt to "rationalize" 
their workplaces to maximize efficiency 
— and profits. But national security in- 
troduces a competing principle around 
which to organize the labor process: 
secrecy. In practice, the need-to-know 
policy conspires with the division of la- 
bor to perform a special role: obscuring 
a worker's contribution to hostile technology. 
This highlights a modern category of 
alienation, the separation of work from 
its final purpose. 

The politically motivated need-to- 
know policy could not be implemented 
without a division of labor. As in civilian 



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electronics, numerous job tasks separate 
military products from the raw materials 
and concepts they incorporate. Most of 
the workers performing the in-between 
tasks needn't know each product's in- 
tended use, only its translation into tech- 
nical specifications. For example, the 
narrow focus of Jeffs workday is on mi- 
crochip circuitry — clusters of "on" and 
"ofP switches, several of which would fit 
across the thickness of a sheet of paper 
— and whether they perform to special 
military specifications simulated in his 
company's design software. This makes 
possible Jeff s ignorance of the classified 
projects he contributes to. It follows that 
the Pentagon has a political stake in en- 
couraging product ignorance — a stake it 
is not wasting any time claiming. 

For decades, the Pentagon has issued 
specifications by which contractors clas- 
sify, test, and deliver work. Now, it is 
coming much closer to dictating the way 
in which work itself is organized. The 
DOD is positioning itself to demand 
from computer system and software 
vendors a work environment that will 
likely deepen the gulf between job task 
and product use. The vehicle is Ada, the 
Pentagon's official computer language, 
and, upon examination, a Trojan Horse 
bearing a management policy. 

As of summer 1984, all new weapons 
and other "mission critical" systems for 
the Pentagon must be written in the Ada 
programming language. As of January, 
1986, all systems buiU for NATO bear a 
similar requirement. These decisions 
affect an estimated 400,000 computer 

workers in the Pentagon's direct employ, 
and countless others in military contract- 
ing shops — eventually, anyone who 
sells software to the DOD and NATO. 
The goal, of course, is to reduce the large 
number of computer languages that 
currently run on the Pentagon's com- 
puters and those of its allies. 

The message conveyed by the DOD 
and a growing number of boosters is that 
Ada is not just another programming 
language. "^Ada was developed to not only 
allow, but to encourage the use of sound 
engineering discipline," observe two Ada 
consultants. There may not be much 
room for choice in this matter. Pentagon- 
approved Ada compilers (the devices that 
interpret and translate software instruc- 
tions into a series of actions that compu- 
ters perform) accept only those programs 
that can pass a battery of tests for "con- 
figuration management," "modularity," 
and much more. These tests "will force 
people to use structured techniques," 
according to a spokesperson whose com- 
pany makes Ada compilers. Army Colonel 
Dick Stanley of the DOD's Ada Joint 
Program Office asserts that "it's virtually 
impossible" to write unstructured Ada 

Structured techniques imply breaking 
up the job of writing a software program 
into modules, groups of relatively sim- 
ple, isolated, step-by-step job tasks. 
Managers and project leaders then as- 
sign modules to project team members, 
who work on them more or less simul- 
taneously. Some programmers like this 
because it allows them to write ever more 

sophisticated and complex programs. 

Under various names, structured pro- 
gramming techniques have been adopted 
by civilian firms primarily as an attempt 
to introduce capitalist efficiency into the 
complex process of software engineering. 
But the principles of "scientific manage- 
ment" are not easily adapted to the 
management of scientists. Software en- 
gineering is an inherently creative pro- 
cess, resistant to the subdivision and 
routinization implied by such techniques. 
With bootcamp finesse, the Ada environ- 
ment, according to an advocate, attempts 
to "enforce" structured techniques by 
changing the "programming environ- 

Whether and how structured tech- 
niques improve software productivity is 
hody debated. It's unlikely the Pentagon 
has overlooked the bonus such work 
methods will yield in the realm of se- 
curity, however. By dividing and simpli- 
fying work, structured techniques may 
make complex programs easier to write 
and maintain, but they also tend to erect 
additional barriers between the pro- 
grammer and his work's uncomfortable 
objective. This is so simply because 
structured programming does not com- 
pel programmers to acknowledge the 
program's purpose while they create it. 
Since programmers require less infor- 
mation about the application as a whole 
than about the internal requirements of 
the program's modules and submodules, 
managers also can use structured tech- 
niques to formalize a division of labor 
that is more conducive to the need-to- 



know policy. The sinister implication is 
that workers can — unwittingly — create 
and refine weapons of deadly sophis- 

The imperative to divide and subdi- 
vide military labor has remarkably ob- 
scured the connections between firms as 
well as within them. One hundred fifty 
thousand subcontractors supply the 
Pentagon's approximately 20,000 prime 
contractors. The B-1 bomber, for 
example, is the work of 5,000 subcon- 
tractors located in every state except 
Alaska and Hawaii. Over 2,000 subcon- 
tractors participate in Lockheed's Trident 
missile program. 

In the Valley, more than 500 firms re- 
ceive primary military contracts in ex- 
cess of $10,000. However, hundreds 
more receive subcontracts from the pri- 
mary contractors. Subcontractors sell 
chips, boards, cathode ray tubes, ac- 
counting programs, and so forth to other 
companies which, in turn, may sell to 
the Pentagon. This ripples the military 
connection, making it even more diffi- 
cult to track. 

When the subcontracting path to the 
Pentagon is several corporate layers deep, 
many employees simply don't know 
about the connection. For example, at 
Ramtek, a graphics display hardware 
company, only marketing, sales, man- 
agement, and a handful of key employees 
seemed to know that a frame buffer de- 
vice sold to another firm was destined 
ultimately for military service. Several 
Ramtek employees said they were happy 
that they didn't work on military pro- 

The maze of military subcontracting 
suggests the futility awaiting workers 
who escape a military contractor to find 
"civilian" employment — only to discover 
there a subcontracting relationship to a 
military supplier. 

Speak No Evil 

Language is the most innocent accom- 
plice to the military worker's ignorance. 

Almost every workplace and occupa- 
tion has its argot — technical language 
that serves as a shorthand for describing 
work problems and procedures. The ad- 
vent of computers and microelectronics, 
however, envelops the workplace in lan- 
guage several times removed from reality. 
Whether the work involves observing 
whales or tracking missiles, computers 
flatten and homogenize it into a colorless 
world of files, records, fields, reports, 
updates, and processing. As a workplace 
tool, technical language has its place. 

But where hostile technologies are de- 
signed and brought to life, the com- 
puter vernacular and its legion acronyms 
have the cumulative effect of putting so- 
cial conscience to rest. 

It's not difficult to imagine what sort 
of work goes on at a facility such as the 
Air Force Weapons Laboratory in New 
Mexico. But you would never know by 
reading the 138-page government docu- 
ment that lists weapons-lab descriptions. 

What is required of the civilian com- 
puter workers at the laboratory? 'A high 
degree of specialized senior systems 
software engineering knowledge and ex- 
perience in scientific/technical ADP 
computer processing applications." What 
projects will employees work on? "Com- 
puter systems which use CDC's NOS/BE 
and NOS/VE operating systems and 
utility programs." But what do the sys- 
tems really do? "These systems support 
a wide variety of technical R&D analy- 
sis functions and applications." The spe- 
cializations might as well describe a 
marine biology lab or a Federal Reserve 

Of course, those who hire on at the 
weapons lab would know, in varying de- 
grees according to their clearance levels, 
that their work involves bomb and mis- 
sile development. But the Air Force's 
language suggests that their daily work 
culture will not remind them of their 
work's purpose. The job descriptions — 
"system generation/installation," "system 
software maintenance," "documentation 
support task"— suggest nothing so con- 

At Teledyne Microwave, workers 
make avionic subsystems for the HARM 
missile. A former worker describes how 
work is divided into project groups with 
titles such as the Switch/attenuator Team, 
the Multiplier Team, the IRM (Inte- 
grated Receiver Module) Qual (Qual- 
ity) Team, and the IRM Production 
Team. Neither the project titles nor the 
ambiguous microchips and circuit boards 
that the teams turn out suggest their 
ultimate destination. As a result, workers 
are not confronted every day by the fact 
that HARM warheads employ 146 
pounds of explosives to scatter 25,000 
shrapnel fragments, each of which is 
preformed to inflict maximum damage. 

Language need not be technical to 
mislead. Lockheed employment adver- 
tisements in military electronics maga- 
zines and news daily job classifieds 
sometimes conceal the military connec- 
tion in plain language. "Our Palo Alto 
Research Lab offers you a stimulating 

environment in a tranquil setting near 
Stanford University ... [Lockheed] in- 
vites you to break away from established 
theories and venture out in new direc- 
tions—creating new technologies that 
will take concepts and turn them into 
reality." "Reality" at the Palo Alto Re- 
search Lab is designing post- holocaust 
technology, such as the Pentagon's Mil- 
star satellite program. But to prospective 
recruits, the ad language is a cue that 
work does not unfold in the morbid sur- 
roundings that Pentagon projects might 
otherwise imply. 

Some contractors help rehearse their 
employees' social conversations. When 
friends and other outsiders casually ask 
"what do you work on?" primary con- 
tractor Watkins-Johnson, according to 
an ex-employee, admonishes its workers 
to utter two words: "electronic defense." 
Further elaboration is considered — 
potentially — a security breach. As it is, 
"electronic defense" is an impoverished 
characterization of the Watkins-Johnson 
line, which includes "electronic warfare 
suites" and radar components for battle- 
ship, land, and jet-launched missiles, 
including the HARM missile, whose 
primary role is offensive. 

If a worker is not really making bombs 
and bombers, but instead constructing 
"projectiles" or testing "fuselage designs," 
then responsibility for the products of 
the worker's labor, too, is obscured. 
How much easier to motivate military 
programmers to perform "data path 
analysis" to time and speed "usage re- 
quirements'—especially if the "data path" 
conveys heat-seeking missile trajectories 
for "usage" by a jet squadron, none of 
which military "software engineers" will 
need to know to complete their work. 
As a deference to computer terminology 
emerges in the high-tech military indus- 
try, the "need-to-know" policy invades 
the domain of language. The jargon is 
a thicket that invites even curious pro- 
grammers and engineers to lose sight of 
the implications of their work. 

"A tool that can do anything..." 

Doris is a production control expediter 
at the Teledyne Microwave facility that 
makes HARM missile circuitry and 
avionics modules. She feels badly about 
her contribution to the missile project. 
"I want to be creative, in an artistic 
sense, instead of destructive." Doris says 
she would rather solder stained glass win- 
dows than expedite the soldering of war 
components, "But I can't get to it," she 



laments, in reference to a discouraging 
labor market. 

By contrast, Fred sees his job as crea- 
tive and challenging. He is vaguely dis- 
turbed about the implications of his v^^ork, 
but remains uninspired about brighter 
prospects and resorts to the private ploys 
of resignation and fantasy: 

"We're making these big nasty mis- 
siles, and everybody hopes they'll never 
be used. It just seems like they could 
build bridges, help people someplace 
else. . . It's not just the U.S., it's not just 
Russia, it's a whole mental attitude that 
goes on that — maybe I just ignore it. Fve 
got no interest in taking anything of 
theirs. I live in comfortable apathy about 
a lot of that. It would be nicer if it was 
all gone." 

More often, military electronics 
workers tend to dismiss their responsi- 
bility by noting the distance between 
their job tasks and those that are more 
directly linked to a hostile product. 
Michael, a utilities software program- 
mer, worked on a log- in protocol for a 
computer system his company hoped to 
sell to the National Security Agency. 
(His company also sells computers to 
the Air Force.) According to Michael, 

"I'm at ease a little bit 'cause I do 
know that I'm not putting the bomb to- 
gether. My guess is that most people 
would not work directly for military ap- 
plications, but would be comfortable 
working in an environment [in which] 

they knew part of [their work] would 
end up in a military application— that 
they weren't directly fueling it. That 
detachment is a sort of protection. " [emphasis 

Victor, a systems software program- 
mer, finds refuge in the ambiguity of 
microelectronics technology. He insists 
that he "wouldn't work for a . . . company 
that does military work," but that work- 
ing on "a tool that can do anything" — 
i.e., civilian or military tasks— is accept- 
able. "If you're making a sewing machine 
to sew parachutes or wedding dresses 
[or] if . . . you know you're . . . sewing 
parachutes, that's the difference." 

"As long as I'm not working on wea- 
pons systems, that's fine with me," says 
Stanford computer science professor 
Thomas Binford. But Binford acknow- 
ledges that his research on stereo vision 
has direct relevance to cruise missile 
guidance systems. "If I chose not to do 
my favorite project because of that, I'd 
go to my second favorite project and 
I'd find the same thing. "I'd keep going 
down the list and then I'd be left saying, 
'What is there left for me to do?'" 

Peter Hochschild, a Stanford computer 
science graduate student, is more to the 
point: "A lot of people here don't even 
think about the issue. They look for a 
research problem that's technically chal- 
lenging and intellectually interesting, 
and they divorce it from its applications. " 
[emphasis added]. 

The reflections of Victor, Michael, 
and Professor Binford are no doubt ear- 
nest appraisals. Is writing missile-per- 
formance analysis software less damn- 
able than using it to perfect the missile's 
flight? How much less lethal is writing an 
accounting program that enables the Air 
Force to operate more efficiently than 
making chips that will guide its bombs to 
their targets? If there are obvious, un- 
ambiguous answers to such questions, 
they are lost in the everyday culture of 
the military electronics worker. Perhaps 
the experience of military electronics 
work is essentially ambiguous. 

Reckoning moral responsibility by 
measuring the distance between one's 
labor and the product is a legitimate 
inquiry, but only if one can hope to 
measure reliably. The division of labor 
in military electronics suggests the inter- 
dependency and responsibility of all 
workers but— and this is the paradox — 
encourages profound distance between 
worker and product. This psychological 
distance is protected and extended by the 
cloistering— the need-to-know policy — 
that mystifies the military product and 
censors the product's ghastly purpose 
from the producer's daily life. As a re- 
sult, workers can, in addition to military 
electronics, manufacture a naivete about 
the impact of their labors and, at least 
among obliging fellow workers, escape 
ridicule for their ill-gotten innocence. A 

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This man came up to me yesterday 

on the 

sidewalk downtown 

and pulled out a 


from under his coat 

and without a word 

shot me in the head 


and the bullet went in my ear and 
wandered around inside my skull 
checking out both left and right brains 
destroying patterns 

of both intuitive and rational thought 
the sections dealing with 
reading, music S. 

gone — 
then it turned its nose 

south and 
dived down my neck, just 
missed my jugular by 
one-eighth of an inch 
and bounced off a couple of 


it was still travelling 
pretty fast and looking for a hole 
to get back out 
without causing much damage 
it realized (bullets have brains too) that 
most of the the holes were 
back up in the head (too bad 

the bellybutton had been 
sealed off years ago) 
so it hairpinned around and 
up my esophagus 

and just as I was saying "what the — ?" 
it p-popped out of my mouth 
I saw it 

coming out like a spitball 
thunki it lodged in a streetsign 

and the man said 

"Oh, I'm terribly sorryj 
I'm terribly sorryl 
I'm terribly sorry... 
but I thought you were the 

you see I work for a group of 

concerned citizens 
a non-profit assassination organization" 
"That's guite alright 

I understand completely" I said 
are mistakes 

and I agree with your politics lOOi*. 
really I do" 
my ear was dripping a little blood 

"Which way is his house?" he asked 
cocking his gun again 
"Oh, it's just down the block 
it's the last one on the left 
you can't miss it 
the new paint job 

and the tall flagpole 
the big lawn 

and the helicopter landing pad 
so good luck 
good luck 



A White Rose Is 

AAWhlte Rose Is 

A,KWhlte Rose... 


had a very nice middle class Jewish American 
girlhood. I was definitely set up to be a Jewish Ameri- 
can Princess . . ." 

It was a surprising opening statement by someone whose 
actions led me to believe she was a hardcore guerrilla sabo- 
teur. I knew very little about Katya Komisaruk prior to this 
interview: only that she had secretly slipped into Vandenberg 
Air Force Base and had her way destroying a Navstar (Navi- 
gation System Time and Ranging) computer complex. This 
base on the California coast is notorious for its testing of 
intercontinental ballistic missiles targetted on the Marshall 
Islands. Given the military's unquenchable fixation yet 
tenuous grasp on "advanced technology, " it's no surprise these 
missiles have a proclivity to fall in- 
discriminately all over the Pacific 
Ocean. The Navstar system now 
supplements, and will eventually 
replace, current missile navigation 
systems that are 100 times less ac- 
curate but perfectly adequate for the 
strategy of Mutual Assured Destruc- 
tion (MAD). Navstar^s unprecedented 
accuracy makes a "surgical" first 
strike nuclear attack technically possible. That's why Katya 
chose Navstar as the target for her own brand of direct action 

She named her sabotage of Navstar the White Rose 
Action after a group of dissident students in Nazi Ger- 
many who used the same name during their protests against 
the Third Reich; they were eventually caught and executed 
for their actions. Several times during the interview Katya 
pointed to parallels between Nazi Germany and the U. S. 
today: the climate of rampant militarism and nationalism, 
and a leader who effectively massages the media to parade 
simple, unworkable solutions to complex problems. In this 
way she felt compelled to draw attention to one way (of many) 
in which the U.S. is developing its own scenario for mass 

"Coffee! Coffee"!! The image 

of management screaming 

about having coffee near a 

computer came to mind... 

But then I spotted a fire 

extinguisher. . . 

During the early hours of June 2, 1987 Katya sneaked 
onto the Vandenberg base toting a tool bag containing crow- 
bar, hammer, boltcutters, drill, and similar tools. She 
walked for an hour through the darkness before arriving un- 
detected at the Navstar complex, went through the facility's 
gates, and used a bicycle lock to secure them behind her. At 
the gate she left flowers, a box of Mrs. Fields' cookies, and 
the following poem: I have no gun /you must have lots / 
let's not be hasty / no cheap shots / have a cookie and 
a nice day. Regarding the cookies she quipped, "Well if 
nothing else, they would spend an 
extra ten minutes defusing the box 
of cookies before going any further. " 
She painted the outside walls of 
the building with phrases from the 
Nuremberg principles. Since above 
every door was the sign ELEC- 
IN OPERATION, she first de- 
cided to climb onto the radar dish 
atop the complex to make dents and holes in its surface. Af- 
ter this she broke into the building and, assuming she would 
be arrested within minutes, went to the large mainframe 
computer and spilled hundreds of its chips onto the floor. 
She then broke into a wild dance atop the chips to celebrate 
their transformation. Unable to crack one large computer 
cabinet, she emptied afire extinguisher onto it and flipped 
the power switch, causing it to short-circuit into electronic 
purgatory. As a final act, she painted the mainframe with 
more messages related to the Nuremberg principles. 

Despite nearly two hours of extensive equipment destruction 
she went completely undetected by the 'advanced' security 
system at the base. Reflecting on this lack of security in an 
interview by Richard Hindmarsh (published in the Austra- 
lian magazine Graffitti^ Katya noted: 'The whole absurity is 



that we're relying on electronics and computer 
technology which is utterly fallible, consistently 

proved fallible " This time the system's 

fallibility allowed Katya to walk off the base 
and hitchhike back to S. F. The next day she 
held a press confererue and voluntarily surren- 
dered to the FBI. 

As the interview progressed, I was struck by 
similar iruongruities in her life: During a stint 
as a corporate executive she advocated income 
sharing with her secretary, "who was a very 
intelligent woman and just as capable as I was"; 
while completing an MBA program she be- 
came so incensed with what she was taught 
that she started a series of direct actions against 
the corporate/military industry, resulting in 31 
arrests in 5 years. This provided the point 
of departure for my questions. 

So how did a good Jewish Princess get 
herself in such a fine mess? There you 
were an M.B.A. student, with a pro- 
mising career as a corporate executive. 
No doubt most of your former col- 
leagues now see you as a terrorist in 
the same league as Khadaffi. What 

Strangely, an important part involved 
deciding it was time to get serious and 
start a career. I was 21. You know, it 
was the time when most young Jewish 
women are told to marry a doctor or a 
lawyer or a CPA. I thought, well, in- 
stead I should just be one. I decided to 
go to business school at U.C. Berkeley. 
Within a month it hit me how incredibly 
corrupt the business world was. I'd lived 
in this complete fairyland up until then, 
where I didn't even read the paper: I just 
didn't have a clue. Suddenly I'm reading 
all these case studies, like Nestle's and 
the baby food scandal— literally hundreds 
of cases, one after another— and all the 
exercises were just appalling. There was 
nothing about taking care of the environ- 
ment, the worker, the consumer. I be- 
gan challenging my professors: "Who 
takes care of these things? Who moni- 
tors corporate responsibility?" They said, 
"Well, nobody really." It became clear 
to me that in the corporate world there 
is no way there is going to be any respon- 
sibility. All through business school the 
buzzphrase was "maximize profits and 
long term stability." In every class that 
was what they would say: in finance, in 
marketing, in the math classes, account- 
ing. It was a constant refrain all through 
business school; it was almost like you 
were supposed to sing it. 

There's no business like business 
school, I guess. It strikes me how wide 
the gap is between myth and fact in 
the M.B.A. propaganda. A more ac- 
curate corporate buzzphrase is "maxi- 
mize profits for short term gains and 


the hell with the future." Particularly 
with toxic chemical pollution, nuclear 
wastes, and other tools of destruction, 
doesn't the immediate environmental 
and social damage threaten the long 
term stability of everyone — including 
those diffuse entities called corpora- 

Exactly. You know that was my spe- 
cialty in business school: strategic plan- 
ning. It simply isn't done in the U.S. 
We have a greedy, shortsighted, cor- 
porate military industry which com- 
pletely controls U.S. defense policy — 
also most of the economy. 

So are you saying you first made 
this connection while pursuing your 
M.B.A. degree at Berkeley? 

Yes, it hit me a couple months into 
the program. My first response was to 
drop out. So I went to talk to my coun- 
selor, she can tell me what to do. I tell 
her all this angst that has just hit. She 
says, "Well dear, sometimes business 
school can be very competitive, and 
the business world in general is very 
competitive, and not all women can 
really cope with this amount of compe- 
tition. I can understand a lot of women 

have trouble with the math, and math is 
really hard here, so maybe you would 
be better in the English department." 
[Fake gagging reaction followed by 
laughter.] So after lines like this I turned 
on my heel and walked out, telling my- 
self 1 can too do this ... I can do this . . . 
I can do this . . . and I completely by- 
passed the whole problem I came in with. 
1 don't know if the counselor did this on 
purpose or it was simply her own in- 
tolerance and stupidity. So I ended up 
plodding through another two years of business 
school hating every minute of it. I was doing 
this out of pride to show them mommy's femi- 
nism did its work. I wanted to prove I 
could do this business stuff. So I'm slog- 
ging on through business school, and 
every day and every week I'm hating it 
more because I was having to read and 
say and write and just spend countless 
hours learning how to maximize profits 
and long-term stability. Each week I was 
getting more and more polarized and 
feeling more and more strongly about 
environmental, political, and nuclear 

But given the coursework required 
by a full time MBA program;, how 

MEt ONl-V 



much time did you actually have for 
political activism? 

I didn't have any time! But I also 
didn't have any guidance because I had 
no friends who were political — at all. 
Certainly not in the business school pro- 
gram, I'll tell you that. Nobody I knew 
was even close to being an activist. I had 
friends who might have circulated peti- 
tions, but that's it. By the end of the 
MBA program in June of 1982, I was 
feeling so conflicted with what I was study- 
ing and writing and what I was privately 
thinking that finally I decided I just had 
to do something. I was walking along 
the street and I saw this poster on a tele- 
phone pole describing a protest at Liver- 
more Weapons Lab. You know I had 
never thought about actually demon- 
strating, but I saw this poster and I 
thought "That's it, I will go to a protest." 
What I had in my mind were scenes from 
television in the early '70s— I imagined 

huge milling crowds of people chanting 
and screaming, bricks being thrown, and 
tear gas and dogs, and this whole chaotic 
maelstrom. 1 was very worried about 
being teargassed. I thought "this really 
sounds crazy," but I was sure this is 
how you do these things, is it not? 

These things^? 

[Laughter] Yes! These things. You 
know, 1 wanted to do this the classical 
way — do it right [more laughter]. So at 
the bottom of the poster it said that to 
participate, you had to go to nonviolence 
training. I had no idea what this 
was, and 1 thought thi? must be some 
religious mumbo-jumbo. However, 
probably they arranged car pools at these 
things and I had no way to get to Liver- 
more otherwise. They told me to come 
wearing loose clothing. I get there and 
after about a half hour it suddenly be- 
comes clear that this was well-planned 
civil disobedience. The trainers are ex- 

plaining affinity groups, direct action, 
nonviolence, and the legal system, and 
we do all these role plays and arrests 
and everything. I thought this is great; 
this is the answer, I'll get arrested — 
this is it. It was my first demonstration, 
my first arrest, and it was incredibly 

So this began literally scores of large, 
public demonstrations for you as a 
peace activist. You've said your expe- 
rience with mass civil disobedience 
has consistently been empowering. 
Why then did you organize the White 
Rose action as an isolated, individual 
- Partly, because to do this type of sabo- 
; tage action as a group requires about a 
year's worth of meetings and retreats. 
Now, I do respect the need for meetings, 
and in fact some meetings can be very 
good. They may be few and far between, 
but it is possible to have great meetings. 
They are a really important way for us to 
have participatory democracy. 

In this case, I just didn't feel up for it. 
I also felt it would be a lot easier to 
sneak into a military facility as one per- 
son rather than a group. As it turned 
out, I could have gone in with a troop of 
girl scouts trailing crumbs. 

You must have been completely 
shocked to have your way with the 
Navstar nerve center without the 
slightest interruption. 

I imagined I would have three minutes 
in which to destroy things before being 
caught. The entire time I was doing it, I 
thought: they are coming, they are at the 
gate, they will be here any second. Every 
minute I had to work was a complete 
surprise. 1 had no idea I would be able 
to walk away from it. 

What made you stop? 

I was exhausted! There was really 
nothing left to do. 

You mean you destroyed every piece 
of equipment in the Navstar facility? 

All gone . . . Bye-bye . . . No more! 
The computer system I trashed was in 
five wardrobe-size cabinets and I used 
my crowbar to haul out all the chips. 1 
piled them on the fioor, jumped up and 
down and did a dance over them. There 
was one cabinet I couldn't get into and I 
ihoughi— "Coffee! Coffee!" The image of 
management screaming about having coffee 
near a computer came to mind. Since that 
wasn't possible, I thought I should go to the 
bathroom and fill a wastebasket full of water 
and pour it on the thing. But then I spotted a 
fire extinguisher . . . There were four fire 
extinguishers on the wall. I picked them 
up, pulled the pins and squirted all this 
electronic equipment and threw the switch 



on. It sizzled and popped and shorted 
everything. My advice to someone plan- 
ning a similar sort of thing: fire extin- 
guishers are perfect, and they are bound 
to be right at hand. You need to use the 
water-type extinguisher. It's necessary to 
have everything turned off while you are 
soaking the computer. Get it soaked 
and then turn it on, preferably from a 
distance so you aren't hit by the arcing 
electricity. Rubber gloves and shoes are 
also a good idea. 

Very effective. Was part of your 
preparation for this action to learn the 
techniques of 'computer irrigation'? 

No, it was serendipity. It was easy; 
fire extinguishers are meant for carry- 
ing around and squirting things. Why 
not computers? 

I'd like to look at the issue of secre- 
cy in doing sabotage. PW receives lots 
of accounts from people who engage 
in clandestine sabotage at their work- 
place. It is relatively easy, you don't 
have to go to a lot of meetings, you 
don't have to be organized with a large 
number of people, and you can still 
gum up the works. In the White Rose 
action you decided to do an indivi- 
dualized act from which you could 
have walked away unnoticed. Why 
were you willing to be arrested for it, 
indeed turn yourself over to the police? 

Not getting caught is crucial to an 
awful lot of work that gets done. I've 

done plenty of clandestine actions, pro- 
bably as many as I have public ones. I 
am as happy with them as I am with the 
White Rose action. Had I realized the 
lousy level of security at Vandenberg I 
might have felt differently. 

It's just that in this time of my life 1 
wanted to do something public. Had I 
done this type of thing and not gone 
public, no-one would now be hearing 
about Navstar. It is a crucial issue that 
I wanted to raise both to the general 
public and the antinuclear movement. 

But there is certainly a lot of clandestine 
sabotage that goes on. People just can't 
advertise sabotage, and by that very fact 
we don't hear about it. We know for in- 
stance there was a fair amount of sabotage 
going on at the Diablo nuclear power 
plant while they were building it. Lines 
half cut through, things deliberately 
built wrong, jammed, messed up. 

This addresses a criticism of sabo- 
tage PW has received: that often sabo- 
tage is misdirected angst which comes 
back as more work for the worker and 
marshals the forces of paranoia, justi- 
fying drug testing, increased surveil- 
lance, tight security systems, and even 
worse. In the case of Diablo, the plant 
was still put into operation, a much 
greater public threat. 

The best sabotage, of course, is less 
than perceptible. Sabotage is a nasty 
word, but it can be real effective in cer- 
tain situations. There are many different 

kinds: the most typical is 'inventory 
shrinkage' (the euphemism used by the 
business world for employee theft) in 
which it must be secretive. Other sabo- 
tage actions, such as what Earth First!- 
types do, must necessarily be public. 
For instance, with tree spiking [see 
"Chainsaw & CR Ts Do Not a Forest Make, " 
PW§\b] it is incumbent upon the sabo- 
teur to get the word out. Since the goal 
is to stop the removal of trees, tree- 
spiking is bloody useless unless you in- 
form lumber companies that it has been 

But what I did was a very different 
kind of action. I assumed I would be 
arrested very quickly. I had not carried 
it out in a way which would have al- 
lowed me to go undetected. My finger- 
prints were everywhere. . . 

Why didn't you wear gloves? 

There is a lot more to escaping de- 
tection than wearing gloves. There is a 
very good book about this called Without 
A Trace. It explains all the police tracing 
techniques: fingerprints, voiceprints, 
fiber analysis. . .There are hundreds of 
ways they can trace you. It is very so- 
phisticated. But if you read that book 
thoroughly, I'm sure you could plan and 
execute the kind of action I did without 
getting caught. 

In issue #10 of PW, an interview 
with a group of French saboteurs call- 
ing themselves Clodo, describes how 



their actions were clandestine and high- 
ly publicized. One way they both ef- 
fectively disarmed and drew attention 
to the tools of war was to blow up 
large computer facilities and leave 
communiques explaining that corpo- 
ration's relationship to the war eco- 
nomy. The public definitely heard 
about that! 


That's the greatest tragedy 
of all: to brainvvash your- 
self. You have to always 
remember that the struggle 

isn't the day-to-day 
struggle to get petty privi- 
leges from assholes in 

I definitely disagree with blowing 
things up, at least in this country, and 
I'd say in Europe as well. Now, it is very 
different in Central America, where strict 
adherence to nonviolence would be a 
joke. But bombs and arson are uncon- 
trollable, and the very best of inten- 
tions often don't work out. 

What I did, I did with my two hands, 
and I had complete control over what 
happened. I don't think if somebody had 
seen me destroying that Navstar equip- 
ment, they would have been terrified 
that their own person was in danger. 
The reason I left the flowers, poem and 
cookies at the gate was because I was afraid 
that the guards would respond to an alarm — 
that there might be these soldiers dashing in 
with their automatic weapons, and it would 
be like Kent State, where young mindfucked 
men who had been through boot camp and had 
a lot of brainwashing were suddenly faced with 
an emergency and did what they were trained 
to do — which was pull the trigger. I didn't 
want to be the target. I thought one way 
to get around that would be to have them 
come across the flowers, poem, and 
cookies first: anything to distract them 
and make them stop and think for a few 
minutes before they went swarming in 

I do believe very much in nonviolence. 

In every instance? 

I don't feel willing to prescribe for other 
people what their form of resistance 
should be. I know that for me, for what 
I want to do here and now, nonviolence 
makes the most sense. I wouldn't pre- 
scribe nonviolence for an activist in El 
Salvador— that's absurd. But in the U.S. 
I don't believe violence is the best way 
to create social change. 

Sometimes in the U.S. the level of 

violent confrontation can be similar to 
El Salvador. In the '60s the Black Pan- 
thers demonstrated how fighting back 
(sometimes violently) can be essential 
for escaping the role of the powerless 
victim. And this really helped empower 
the black community. It wasn't only 
about arming yourself for defense 
against police violence, although that 
was important, but also developing 
alternative community organizations 
for mutual aid: health clinics, food 
conspiracies, street schools, and such. 
So for me the question of violence or 
nonviolence varies with the situation. 
Violent confrontation certainly does- 
n't make much sense at a military 
base or a police station. Very rarely 
does it make any sense for me (except 
as self-defense) in overcoming my own 
oppression. But don't you think there 
are other contexts even here in the 
U.S., such as combatting the activities 
of the Ku Klux Klan, where violence 
may be necessary? 

The thing is, nonviolence doesn't al- 
ways work. For instance, should the 
Jews in Nazi Germany have strictly ad- 
hered to nonviolent actions? They were 
nonviolent in essence up to the uprising 
in the Warsaw ghetto — and that was, I 
guess, too little too late. 

It gets real tricky. It's hard to know 
if nonviolence is for sure the best mode 
for society in general and social change 
in particular. If there was one thing that 
Berkman and Goldman learned in their 
long lives, it was that social change which 
happens precipitously (because of some- 
thing like an assassination) isn't going to 
be that much slower organic process 
which also involves changing minds. 
Usually, in a violent revolution, those 
who end up in power are those who are 
best at being violent, not the ones who 
have the best social or political talents. 

I know I'm not ready at this stage in 
my life to have blood on my hands. 

Many in the peace movement see 
nonviolence as a philosophy of life 
rather than a political tactic that can 
change depending upon the circum- 
stances. A significant number of these 
people also believe property destruction 
is an act of violence that should never 
be used. Obviously, you don't. 

If my neighbor was experimenting with 
germ warfare in his basement and had a 
bunch of petri dishes full of interesting 
devices, I would feel more than entitled 
to say "This is a danger to me, to the 
community, and to this maniac" and to 
deprive him of that property. He might 
scream, "Those are my petri dishes and 
my viruses." In the same way, the U.S. 
government is playing around with nu- 

clear weapons that are a danger to me, 
my friends and loved ones, and I don't 
think they are entided to play with them. 
Anything so dangerous that it can kill every- 
body should not be owned by anybody. 

The argument around property de- 
struction is often put in these terms: if 
we cut the fence around a military base, 
nuclear plant, et cetera, the surrounding 
community won't understand or will be 
offended. I think that is a problem, but 
I also think the community will be more 
offended if they all get blown up. 

One has to change one's standards 
and ties from community to community, 
especially in a cosmopolitan community, 
people are pretty jaded about protesters 
sitting in their road and blocking traf- 
fic. They may even feel it is very idealis- 
tic and vaguely reminiscent of the '60s. 
In this case, for civil disobedience not to 
be co-opted it is sometimes necessary to 
escalate to some version of controlled 
property destruction. 

You mentioned you have been ar- 
rested over thirty times, mostly doing 
civil disobedience at large public pro- 
tests. What you did at Vandenberg 
was, of course, quite different. Was 
this a response to the current limita- 
tions of mass CD? How predictable 
it's become? How thoroughly orche- 
strated it is by both the police and or- 

It is a ballet of cooptation, right? 

Is it even that artistic? A prison 
march might be a more accurate des- 
cription. The actions have become so 
predictable, especially those stale con- 
frontations where the authorities estab- 
lish a line that is illegal to cross, pro- 
testers cross it and assume some form 
of stasis, and the police herd them 
away like cattle to be processed. 

I feel that no mass CD can ever be 
discounted. As with Rosa Parks, the 
march on Washington, the Vietnam 
War protests, often you cannot effective- 
ly calculate the outcome of your actions. 
Sure, I have been dissatisfied with CD 
actions. But it seems that for all of us 
who are jaded there are a lot more peo- 
ple for whom it is as meaningful as any 
act could be. 

For me the experience of mass CD 
is similar to LSD. The first time — 
WOW! It was an intense, transfor- 
mative experience to feel the power, 
that tremendous solidarity when large 
numbers of people collectively rebel 
against authority. Incredibly em- 
powering. So I see it as important for 
people who have never tasted any- 
thing like that before. But once you 
get acquainted with the system of po- 



lice-jail-courts, and with how affinity 
groups within a large participatory 
decision-making process can, within 
certain limits, engender resistance 
against that system, what is the value 
of repeating the same old script? 

If nothing else there is the self-empower- 
ing aspect of saying for once: "I don't 
have to follow the rules; 1 don't need to 
cower in front of authority." For those 
that feel the thrill is gone, there is or- 
ganizing the first CD in a rural town. I 
remember helping with a CD action in 
Brattleboro, Vermont. Only three lo- 
cals were willing to get arrested, but it 
was a very significant event. A debate 
over the function of the town's main 
employer raged for over a year. It was 
front-page news in the local papers, big 
photos, everyone talked about it. So what 
seemed like a trivial, K-Mart type of 
action turned out to be very significant. 

I would never do CD without feeling 
it was worthwhile. If the type of politi- 
cal activity you are doing has become 
boring or tepid, you should do something 

The White Rose action was hardly 
tepid. Yet like CD, getting arrested 
was essential in your strategy to pub- 
licize the odious nature of Navstar. 
You fully expected to be apprehended 
within minutes of starting the sabo- 
tage. Since that didn't happen did you 
consider turning yourself over to Van- 
denberg security right then? 

A'io, although I've recovered somewhat from 
being a Jewish American Princess — my nails 
were ruined! I was utterly sweaty and disheveled, 
and the thing I most wanted was a shower . . . 
and breakfast. I knew if I called security 
at that point, they would just want to 
interrogate me through the night. I cer- 
tainly didn't like the idea of being inter- 
rogated by military officers all night — 
much less going without a shower. 

Yet the next day you turned your- 
self over to the authorities. Isn't it a 
bit schizo to plan to get arrested on 

I feel the effect of what I did was maxi- 
mized by a lot of publicity and espe- 
cially, regarding the public at large, the 
flavor it gets by me turning myself in. It 
reaches some people who wouldn't other- 
wise listen if they didn't perceive that 
somebody felt seriously enough to risk 
getting locked up for 20 years. They may 
think: "Oh, the poor girl, such a nice 
young thing. She is going to be old by the 
time she gets out. She must have really 
believed in this. I wonder what it was she 
cared about so much." And then maybe 
they listen. And they won't hear without 
a virgin sacrifice [laughs] like me. It's a 
pity . . . 

ARGHH!! Isn't that merely mis- 
placed masochism? 

In a calculated way. 

So you're a politically correct, cal- 
culated masochist? 

I'd prefer you didn't use that particu- 
lar line, however good it looks. The 
point I wanted to make is that people 
could do this type of action in a secular 
fashion. It's certainly very much part of 
the Christian tradition for people to suf- 
fer for their beliefs. It's often highly re- 
garded as religiously correct to defy se- 
cular authority for the sake of following 
God's law. But this is seldom done on a 
philosophically secular basis. 

You mean defying governmental 
law for your personal set of morals? 

My personal set of ethics reflect cer- 
tain international ethics as exemplified 
by the Nuremberg principles. This can 
go round and round, but obviously I 
thought my actions would have beneficial 
effects on me as well as on whoever it 
affected in the public at large. The whole 
issue with any kind of direct action is 
what you are going to do with it. 

You face up to ten years in prison 
for what you did — was it worth it? 


You seem undaunted about doing 
time in prison. Aren't you afraid of the 
brutality and harassment you might 
receive? Or do you think you can 
largely avoid that? 

Until I start looking for trouble. Then 
I'm sure I will be able to find it. For instance, 
I can't see any reason to work. I know that 
prison authorities frel that there is an impor- 
tant economic and rehabilitative effect to work- 
ing. But the day I work for 11 cents an hour. . . 

It must feel very strange to be arti- 
culating your future life in prison. Here 
you are now planning and thinking 
about it . . . 

Thinking about it? ... / dream about it! 
It will definitely have a pronounced ef- 
fect on my life until I get out, and then 
some. Tm not naive about what Tm facing, 
and the fears I have are grounded in 

You said you have been arrested 3 1 
times for your protest activities. How 
many times did you end up in jail or 

Probably a dozen. I have been in one 
prison and a lot of jails. The jails are a 
lot worse. 

For short periods of time or longer? 

I was in one hell-hole in Los Angeles 
for a month, where prisoners were con- 
stantly baited, beaten, and abused by the 

Since you know to some extent what 
you are in for, what is your strategy for 
psychic and emotional survival? 

Reading and writing, especially corre- 
sponding with my friends. Fve always 
wanted to write a book; I think maybe 
ni write a Utopian novel. But it will be 
corresponding with friends that will give 
me the reality check I need. If I were to 
accept the standards of the oppressor, the 
guards of the institution, if I tried to get 
with the program, it would be fatal to my 
integrity and my sense of worth. There is 
tremendous pressure to capitulate, to say 
and act the way they want you to. It 
eventually becomes a form of self-brain- 
washing. That's the greatest tragedy of all: to 
brainwash yourself . You have to always remem- 
ber that the struggle isn't the day-to-day struggle 
to get petty privileges from assholes in uniforms. 

That applies equally well to those 
of us outside the institutional prisons. 

The key is keeping a lifeline with your 
community. Community is where my 
identity comes from. It doesn't have to 
be physically present; as long as I'm in 
communication with my community I'll 
be okay. In prison my lifeline will be my 
correspondence. That's what will keep 
me sane. j^ 

— by Medo ^r 

On November 16, shortly after this 
interview, Katya was found guilty on 
charges of destruction of government 
property by an L.A. Federal court. 
The judge would not allow a defense 
based on international law and the 
Nuremberg principles. On January 
11, Katya was sentenced to 5 years in 
jail. Those who wish to contact her 
should write c/o White Rose Defense 
Collective, 1716 Felton, SF, CA. ?4/J^. 




M^ irst there was Platoon. Then came 
an entire crop of "realistic" films about 
Vietnam, including Stanley Kubrick's 
Full Metal Jacket, Francis Ford Cop- 
pola's Gardens of Stone, Hamburger Hill, 
Hanoi Hilton, and 84 Charlie Mopic. 
They were all important, their publi- 
cists said, because in telling the Viet- 
nam story the way it really was, they 
served to educate a whole generation 
too young to remember the war first- 
hand. But if you look at the television 
messages about Vietnam that these 
films had to compete with, you realize 
that in this regard. Platoon and the rest 
were outnumbered and outgunned. 

Daily lessons about the war are 
taught to kids in the afternoons, after 
school and before dinner, by reruns 
of shows produced during the Vietnam 
years. TV reruns from that era (1964- 
1974), particularly situation comedies, 
are still broadcast nearly every day. 
What they tell viewers about the war 
is very different from what Platoon 
says. The sitcom Vietnam was just 
and noble, free of dissension and full 
of moral purpose. 

For example, this era produced the 
most preternaturally honest TV 
character of all time. He was the per- 
sonification of innocent, gentle decency. 

This combination of characteristics 
was the comic linchpin in many of his 
episodes. He was, it seemed at times, 
almost too conscientious. 

The character was Gomer Pyle, 
U.S.M.C., and for five years, from 
1964 to 1969, Gomer was trained at 
Camp Henderson (probably Camp 
Pendleton in real life) in Southern 
California. Trained for what? To go to 
Vietnam. Honest, sweet-natured 
Gomer was planning to go to 'Nam to 
kill Commies. Gomer had fitful bouts 
of moral trepidation over whether or 
not to tell his girlfriend, LuAnne, 
that she couldn't sing (even though she 
couldn't) because it might hurt her 
feelings. But he never batted an eye- 
lash about lobbing mortar fire into 
enemy villages. The argument that 
Gomer was drafted and was in the 
military only as a law-abiding citizen 
doesn't wash, because Gomer reenlisted. 
He wanted io be there. 

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. is still pre- 
sented in hundreds of TV markets 
daily. If he's not in your area now, 
he'll rotate in soon enough. 

But Gomer is far from alone in his 
worldview. Move now from the most 
honest man in Rerunville, to its most 
patient, caring, and wise Dad-figure, 
Steven Douglas, of My Three Sons 
(1960-1972). A more trustworthy per- 
son you will not find. And what does 
Steve Douglas do for a living? He is 
an aerospace engineer who designs 

Whenever you see Douglas in his 
office, smoking his pipe and looking 
down at his slide rule, on the wall be- 
hmd him are pictures of fighters and 

What reruns continui 

bombers. The show's first location was 
the midwestem suburb of Bryant Park; 
in 1968, it moved to Southern Cali- 
fornia. We can assume from this that 
Steve works for McDonnell-Douglas 
Aircraft, with its corporate offices split 
between St. Louis and Long Beach. 
Maybe he is even related to one of 
the company's founders, last-namesake 
Donald Douglas. (Adding credence to 
this theory is the fact that McDonnell 
Douglas was created by a merger of 
McDonnell with Douglas Aircraft 
Company in 1967. The resultant 
shakeup meant lots of employees had 
to move between St. Louis and Long 

Perhaps Steven is working on civil 
aircraft? Not likely, considering all 
those trips to Washington he has to 
make, as well as his military "friends" 
who are quickly brought in when step- 
son Ernie sees a UFO. 

Steve's three sons and their assorted 
girlfriends and wives, all supposedly 
members of the hippie generation (af- 
ter all, sons Robbie and Chip play in 
groovy rock bands), never even peace- 
fully question Dad on his profession, 
let alone argue with him. Robbie joins 
his Dad's company after college grad- 

When you watch those shows today, 
you get the feeling that sixties kids 
thought it A-OK to design warplanes. 



each about the war 

The memories of hippiedom and pro- 
tests fade with time like tie-dyed jeans, 
while My Three Sons continues loud and 
clear and in color. 

And speaking of Robbie-^Douglas, 
there is a thread common to most 
young sitcom draft-age males of the 
time. This includes guys like Greg 
Brady {The Brady Bunch, 1969-74), 
Craig Carter (played by Desi Arnaz, 
Jr. on Here's Lucy, 1968-1974) and 
Keith Partridge {The Partridge Family, 
1970-1974). As each boy becomes a 
man, there is an episode in which the 
lure of real-life adventure and money 
from a job (be it real-estate agent or 
pop singer) causes the kid to drop out of 
college, or to seriously consider not 
going to college after high school. The 
parents are naturally concerned. 

"Your father and I planned on col- 
lege for you, Greg. You know how 
valuable an education is." Invariably, 
the boy suffers a comic setback, and 
finally agrees that college is indeed the 
right way to advance oneself. 

At no time, however, does a parent 
use what was the best reason to stay 
in school during that time. "Quit school 
and you'll get drafted, Greg. You'll be 
sent to Vietnam, and end up bleeding 
to death in an anonymous rice paddy 
with incurable syphilis and insects 
crawling all over your muddy body. 
Now you march yourself off to college, 
young man, and stay there until it's 

Perhaps being drafted wasn't so bad, 
today's TV watchers think, since it 
didn't even enter into the minds of 

these young "1-A's" when they were 
quitting school. They come to the 
conclusion that maybe Robbie and 
Greg wanted to be drafted. After all, 
look at the great time had by the 
roustabouts on McHale's Navy (1962-66). 
True, it was a different war, but the 
action took place in the same theater 
of battle. Some of PT-73's naughty 
old haunts were probably still open 
for business during Vietnam. 

And even if the VC capture you, 
could the Hanoi Hilton be that much 
worse than Stalag 13 (Hogan's Heroes, 
1965-71)? A prison is a prison, right? 

Finally, can there be any doubt 
about the underlying message of / 
Dream of Jeannie (1965-70)? Captain 
(later Major) Tony Nelson of the Air 
Force finds an incredibly powerful 
but unpredictable Genie on a deserted 
island in the South Pacific. Once in 
his possession, Jeannie the Genie is 
forever getting him into trouble. As 
a result, the base psychiatrist, Dr. 
Bellows, thinks Nelson is crazy. 

Jeannie symbolizes the way our 
country perceived nuclear weapons 
at the time: powerful, mercurial, 
magical, always causing one problem 
or another, privy to the military — but 
at the same time sexy, lovable, irresis- 
tible. On what island does Nelson 
find her? Bikini, perhaps? Remem- 
ber that in the fifties, the wonders of 
Atomic Power were explained with 
the help of "The Atomic Genie." Nel- 
son and Jeannie eventually marry. 
(Compare our embodiment of the 
nuclear phantom with Japan's, the 
horrible monster Godzilla. It's easy to 
see who dropped the bomb and who it 
got dropped on.) To top it off, do you 
recall that Barbara Eden, as Jeannie, 

could not show her belly button. The 
button? Show us the sexy side of nu- 
clear arms (and legs), but don't remind 
us about the button. After all, other 
TV women could show their navels 
— female aliens on Star Trek, for in- 

OK, so maybe that's stretching it a 
bit. Maybe more than a bit. As with 
conspiracy theories, it's easy to get 
carried away. 

The truthfulness of the new Vietnam 
films is to be admired. But the point 
should be well taken by now. Don't 
say that these new movies, viewed by 
maybe 1 5 million people for two hours 
over a period of about three months, 
will educate a whole country about 
what really happened. Not when tele- 
vision's mendacious messages about 
the period are still being fed to the 
populace in a steady stream, espe- 
cially to the young. No batch of one- 
shot deals, no matter how truthful 
and well hyped, can do that. 

by Mike Wilkins 


Growing Up in Los Aiamos, 

here's a state in this country that is a mystery 
to those outside its borders. Most U.S. citizens 
don't know whether or not it is a state. Mexican cops 
have been known to become distincdy agitated at its 
mention, as if treason were involved. Impoverished, 
living off tourists and other crawling creatures, New 
Mexico is often childish in its pretensions to inde- 

The federal government owns some 1 % of the 
state in the form of wilderness, military bases, 
monuments, forest lands — and a modern company 
town that looks like a cross between an army base 
and a university. Anglo, wealthy, and cosmopolitan, 
the town carries the state's contradictions to a fev- 
erish level: a pinnacle of western science and tech- 
nology isolated in desolate mountains. It's a thor- 
oughly modern world tinged with signs of the past: 
Indian ruins, brass plaques, 
museums. Its people, civilized 
and polite, may go down in 
history as mass murderers. 

Los Alamos is located in the 
Jemez (pronounced hay-mess) 
mountains in northern New 
Mexico, rising more than six 
thousand feet above the Rio 
Grande. Pajarito Mesa, at 
some seven thousand feet above 
sea level, is cold and snowy in 
the winter, hot and dry in the 
summer. The small canyons 
have seasonal streams; the oc- 
casional permanent brooks support ferns and deci- 
duous trees, including the cottonwoods from which 
Los Alamps takes its name. This withered land- 
scape's browns and parched greens contrast sharply 
with a deep blue sky. Many people, accustomed to 
greener places, find it disturbing, even frightening, 
in its emptiness and arid silence. 

The first inhabitants, ancestors of the modern 
Pueblo Indians, left only silent ruins and bits of 
pottery and stone. The Spanish never settled in 
these mesas, preferring the more fertile river area, 
and the next permanent dwellers were the anglo 
small farmers in the 1870s. Around the turn of the 
century a small boarding school was founded, con- 

Cocktail parties would be 

filled with people who 
couldn't talk about the one 
thing that they had in com- 
mon—work. This atmosphere 
shrouded the city from its 
perimeter inward: in ivork- 
places, inside families, and 
in people's minds. 

nected to Santa Fe by a tenuous road hacked out of 
the mesa. But it wasn't until WWII that Los Alamos 
developed its schizoid aspects, both brilliant and 
deadly dark. First the army took over the area and 
created a munitions range. Then came fences, 
guard posts, housing, and labs; a relocation camp 
for Japanese- Americans in Santa Fe was relocated, 
and by mid-July of 1945, the components of the 
world's first nuclear weapon were in the school's old 
icehouse. At dawn on July 23, 1945, the gaunt hills 
of the Oscura mountains were lit with a flash so 
bright that a blind girl many miles away asked her 
parents what the flash was. The Atomic Age had 

Los Alamos never lapsed into its pre-war lassi- 
tude. Within a few years the thermonuclear bomb 
had been created, and it was then that my father ar- 
rived. An astronomer from 
Toronto's David Dunlop Ob- 
servatory, a Ph.D. student with 
the University of Chicago's 
Nobel prize-winning astrophysi- 
cist Chandrasekhara, my father 
came to Los Alamos to work in 
"T (for Theoretical Physics) 
Division," a group that was 
responsible for the development 
of newer and more useful nu- 
clear weapons. 

We lived in company housing, 

although stores were privately 

owned. People who lived there 
were usually waved past the guard post on the out- 
skirts of town, but outsiders were issued a temporary 
pass after the guards had called ahead and veri- 
fied that they were expected. In places the only 
barrier was the natural world, often supplemented 
by high fences topped with barbed wire. We were 
about an hour's drive from Santa Fe, which at some 
twenty thousand people seemed a large city to me, 
and Albuquerque, an hour further, which was an 
unbelievably huge metropolis. This physical isola- 
tion was reflected by our own time zone, because 
we had daylight savings time in order to "keep up" 
with Washington. Whenever we left town we had 
to set our watches back. 




At locations dictated by geography and 
wartime requirements there were yet 
more secure complexes surrounded by 
stout fences and armed guards. Close by 
the small man-made lake there was a 
series of low, olive-drab temporary or 
"T" buildings that housed the first labs 
and the monstrous computers. Nearer 
the end of the mesa was DP Site, the 
long buildings in which plutonium was 
refined. A beautiful bridge spanned a 
canyon, itself the home of a reactor and 
tunnels into the cliffs for nuclear weapons 
storage, beyond which lay the new build- 
ings that housed the physicists and 
mathematicians. Beyond the burial 
ground (for radioactive garbage, not 
jaeople) was "S-Site," where the all-impor- 
tant explosives were milled and shaped. 
In distant canyons ingenious dwarves 
engaged in yet more arcane crafts. It 
was as if a giant had scattered random 
pieces of military bases and chemical 
factories over the rugged canyons and 
Indian ruins. The sites, like the work 
done there, were usually both visible and 

The isolation undoubtedly drove some 
away, but the rest found other com- 
pensations: extreme dedication to work, 
enjoyment of the wilderness, study of the 
local anthropology. My father was in- 
terested in rocks and minerals, collected 
local artifacts (Kachina dolls, etc.), at- 
tended the open Indian dances, worked 
on his old Packard with his scientist 
buddies, and read voraciously. We 
would often take hikes, ignoring govern- 
ment signs, to explore ruins and caves. 
The best places were known by friends 
who lived on Bathtub Row (so named 
because the old school buildings were 
originally the only ones with bathtubs). 
There were familiar local sights, such as 
the director of the lab, Norris Bradbury, 
driving his immaculate Model T to work. 
There were good libraries, a radio sta- 
tion, churches, amateur performance 
groups. For those who stayed it was a 
very comfortable and safe environment, 
pleasantly elite and highly secure. 

We lived in Western Area, a housing 

tract of one-story houses, mostly of the 
same design, set at slightly different 
angles to the street and painted in one 
of a few basic shades. The lawns made 
it look more like a normal suburb, in 
contrast to the city's concrete, barbed 
wire, and government color schemes. 
When the plumbing broke or the roof 
leaked, we called Zia, the government 
company that hired maintenance. 

My horizons were bounded physically 
by two canyons, and organizationally 
by the AEC and LASL (the Atomic 
Energy Commission and the Los Alamos 

Scientific Laboratory). In fact, the city 
has only one employer, The University 
of California, which has two subsidiaries: 
the professionals and the scientific elite 
(physicists, mathematicians, chemists, 
and so on) worked for LASL, while the 
people who did the grunt work, main- 
tenance, and repairs all worked for Zia. 
Those people were often (surprise!) His- 
panic or Indian. The salary levels de- 
termined where you lived: an efficiency, 
an apartment, a duplex, a single family 
dwelling, or privately built housing. The 
divisions on our playgrounds reflected 
who our parents worked for. 

Government was omnipresent — on 
the sides of cars and trucks, on signs and 
on paper. In the Atomic City, as its 
boosters like to call it, all government 
things were labeled or designated. I 
thought that all places had this sort of 
relentless nomenklatura — STRUC- 
MAN HOLE COVER"; a small rectan- 
gular white sign with neat black letters. 
All signs were standardized — ominous 
warnings (either red and black on white 
or the warmly familiar black and yellow 
trefoils) or outright prohibitions. My 
favorite sign prohibited not only tres- 
passing but also cameras, recording de- 
vices, binoculars, firearms, and cross- 
bows. The fences themselves were a code 
we could read: the tall chainlink fences 
with a "Y" of barbed wire at the top 
were no-go zones, while the four-strand 
barbed-wire fences were just the govern- 
ment's way of announcing its friendly 
presence. The signs that said (in red on 

were not to be trifled with. Some of them 
lay between Barranca Mesa (which be- 
came a fairly upscale housing area) and 
Rodeo Mesa; most of them were miles 
outside of town. 

The hazards were both as hidden and 
as distant as the sites themselves, 
but inevitably the military and civilian 
worlds overlapped. A schoolmate of 
mine lost a few limbs to a relic of a simp- 



ler form of war. Someone had found an 
old bazooka shell in a remote range and 
had dropped it off a cliff a few times. It 
didn't explode, and thinking that it was 
a dud, he took it home. His kid found 
it in a closet and took it out to show 
friends. It was dropped on the sidewalk, 
and the detonation tore the arms and 
legs off of several children and killed a 
little tyke who was riding his brand-new 
birthday bicycle past the house. 

The town's unique product was so 
common as to become normal. The only 
way I can remember its sinister aspect 
bothering me was in a recurring dream 
I had when I was about six years old. In 
it I am floating in outer space. Dimly 
seen against the stars are floating things, 
which I thought of at the time as re- 
sembling "tractor parts." They are drift- 
ing together in small clumps, and when 
two unknown pieces meet everything 
will end. I'm unable to stop any but a 
very few. I would awaken in panic, un- 
able even to scream. These dreams faded 
away harmlessly in a year or so. 

The nuclear world was mostly invisible 
to us— remember the fish's opinion on 
water? We used to play, like kids every- 
where, in places where we weren't al- 
lowed to go. We stole lead bricks from 
behind the medical physics building near 
our houses and mailed them to Time/ 
Life Books. We teased the monkeys in 
the outdoor cages and prowled around 
the tech sites on our bicycles. We had 
encounters with patrols more than once, 
usually ending politely, but occasionally 
with the Guardians of Security trying to 
scare us (at least part of my hatred for 
cops comes from these goons). We found 
a way into a site that was being de- 
commissioned and had great fun in the 
old basements. We found some stray 
hotbox gloves — heavy insulated rubber 
gloves as long as your arm which are 
normally sealed at the armpits into the 
walls of the "hot boxes" used for work 
on toxic chemicals and metals. I hope 
these gloves had no lingering contami- 
nants, because we sure had a great time 
chasing each other with them. 

Most of our search for entertainment, 
though, was of a traditional, non-dan- 
gerous sort, such as falling down cliffs 
and getting stuck in caves and the like. 
A lot of us, at least the males, were 
dedicated to pyrotechnics and flight, of- 
ten with terrible consequences. One of 
my pals, DJ, was goofing around with 
gasoline and burned himself really badly. 
I blew off my father's eyebrows while 
making hydrogen gas for balloons. The 
Lab's surplus shop, which sold every- 
thing from old electronics to metal sha- 
vings and once-used glassware for twenty- 


five cents a pound, was a major source 
of entertainment. 

In later years we discovered drugs. 
My friend DJ overdosed on belladonna 
when we were about 10 and I never saw 
him again. The city has long had a no- 
torious drug "problem" among its youth, 
which mirrors the alcoholism among its 
adults. The wife of one of the directors 
was a substitute teacher and a horrible 
alcoholic, embarrassing us with her 
simple tests (which she accused us of 
cheating on) and her incoherent singing 
in music class. Both of my parents were 
alcoholics, my father almost losing his 
clearance before he quit drinking with 
the aid of the Lab's alcoholism program. 
It may be that the isolation contributes 
to it, but it's also a sign of stress— the 
employees can't talk about their work, 
can't really question it, and can't escape 
from it. 

The deadliest dangers within the labs 
are secreted away, approachable by only 
the select few. For the families of these 
few, the dangers are distant. I rarely 
got to visit my parents' offices. When I 
was very young, the guards would allow 
my parents to take me into the building 
where my mother worked. It was about 
1957, in one of the old military T-build- 
ings near Ashley's Pond, that I first saw 
a computer. It was an entire wall of dials 
and lights in an overheated, funny- 
smelling room, which was filled with the 
clicking of thousands of circuits opening 
and closing. The computer was one of 
the first digital computers, probably 
MANIAC (for Multiple Algorithmic 
Numeric Integrator And Calculator). 

Once I erased an entire chalkboard of 
apparently useful information, and I 
don't recall ever being allowed back in. 

Both my parents had what is known 
as "Q-Clearance," meaning that they 
were cleared for access to information 
tagged "Top-Secret" and below. Al- 
though there are some special categories 
that are more restricted ("ROYAL" in 
the Carter administration, or various 
NSA classifications), the Q-Clearance is 
the highest level. These people all under- 
go periodic checks, and the files include 
their relatives; my FBI file (with foot- 
prints) was started at birth. 

The security is strict, humorless, oc- 
casionally absurd. Years after I left, 
when I subscribed to a left-wing rag at 
college, a local FBI agent approached 
my father, wanting to know if he was 
aware of this; my father told the guy to 
get out of his office. The security regu- 
lations may not stop espionage, but they 
certainly stunt conversation. My father 
couldn't discuss his work (weapons phy- 
sics) with my mother (who worked in the 
Central Computing Facility). Cocktail 
parties would be filled with people who 
couldn't talk about the one thing that 
they had in common — work. This at- 
mosphere shrouded the city from its peri- 
meter inward: in workplaces, inside 
families, and in people's minds. 

The lab took precautions to main- 
tain the Ph.D.s in excellent physical, if not 
mental, health. The safety record at Los 
Alamos is good, but when playing with 
materials like plutonium, a single mistake 
can be memorable; Sloatin Street in Los 
Alamos is named after one such. Sloatin, 

Early computer in Los Alamos, probably MANIAC or MADCAP -by R.E. Williamson 05/28/53 


a physicist, was demonstrating a "critical 
assembly" to a group of visitors back in 
the 1950s. The process, nicknamed 
"tickling the dragon," amounts to play- 
ing with three variously shaped pieces of 
plutonium, bringing them slowly toge- 
ther to observe conditions immediately 
before critical mass. Sloatin was trying 
to end the demonstration when some- 
thing went wrong. He ordered the visi- 
tors from the room; then he took a huge 
wrench, broke open the lead-glass-and- 
oil hot box, smashed the sphere of plu- 
tonium inside, and spread the pieces 
apart by hand. He took thirteen days to 
die of radiation poisoning, conscious for 
most of it. His case was talked about, 
although that may be because he had 
not been authorized to give the demon- 
stration. In general, however, the work- 
ers of Los Alamos are better protected 
than the poor bastards in the military 
who they test the things on, or the people 
at the Savannah River Plant that pro- 
duces plutonium for warheads. 

There were also political dangers. The 
fate of the lab's founder, Oppenheimer, 

was a warning to all. He had been black- 
balled in the McCarthy period, losing 
his clearance in 1954. Other people oc- 
casionally vanished; having lost their 
clearances, they were as unemployable 
as a labor agitator in any company town. 
Although Oppenheimer was eventually 
rehabilitated (the scientific community 
had never been impressed by the charges 
against him), the threat was obvious: 
Don't let there be even a hint of dis- 
loyalty. The purge had ruined his life, 
and the rehabilitation was not much use 
to him. The city tore out a perfectly 
functional one-block-long street and put 
in a 6-lane road that was christened 
Oppenheimer Drive. Most who lost their 
clearance were not so lucky. 

After the city was opened to the public, 
despite a vote by the populace to keep 
it closed, many employees moved off" the 
Hill. Some went to the new "suburbs" 
of White Rock and Pajarito Acres, 
others to the Valley: Pojuaque, Tesuque, 
Espanola or Santa Fe. The Indians lived 
in the local pueblos— Jemez, Santa Do- 
mingo, San Ildefonso, or Cochiti. The 

still close-knit community was slowly 
opening up to the world, but it remained 
inwardly focused: employees' spouses 
were often hired in various capacities, 
which later led to charges of nepotism 
and racism. 

At one time, the lab had an "Open 
House" policy. Every four years, work- 
ers' families were permitted to tour most 
of the tech areas. My father was allowed 
to bring me into the inner sanctum of 
his personal office, but only after he had 
taken all the documents in his office (the 
calendar, the type ribbons, the memo 
pad, the contents of the double safe) 
and locked them in the main vault down- 
stairs. The offices were mostly like his— 
uncomfortable and somewhat antiquated, 
with a desk, a couple of chairs, a few 
prints on the walls, and an open safe. 
The windows were covered with Venetian 
blinds. These were not his idea, he 
claimed, but that of some fearful security 
agent who envisioned Russian spies 
climbing one of the pine trees on the 
slope a few miles away and peering 
through binoculars in the hope of getting 



f^> ^ > -^ >^>*^ ' *>*>»*>^ ^ >»*>*^ ^ > ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^^^^^/ 

What's In A Name? 

Ihev had to invent a whole new vo- 
cabulary: shots, tech areas, sites, letter 
codes, and so on. The first weapons 
group at Los Alamos was "G-Group," 
G for Gadget. Why, you wonder, is a 
bomb called a device — is it an attempt 
to avoid facing the reality of the thing? 
Not at all, we're told.The difference 
between a device and a bomb isn't in 
yield or size, but rather in the amount 
of yellow electrician's tape on it. Bombs 
are an "off-the-shelf" package, com- 
plete and self-contained (except for 
fuses). Devices, however, always have 
things that have been forgotten that 
must be added at the last moment. 

Another example of official vocabu- 
lary in action may be found in the case 
of an Army sergeant. He was process- 
ing a vat of radioactive liquid waste, 
when, in the language of the lab, he 
"achieved a subcritical geometry" and 
experienced an "excursion": that is, 
enough fissionable material had some- 
how swirled together in the tank to re- 
lease a burst of high-energy particles, 
which half-cooked him on the spot. The 
sergeant died the next day of acute 
radiation poisoning. 

Even in the early days, security tended 
to take on a slightly unreal atmosphere. 

a glimpse of the paperwork. My mother 
had a partitioned cubicle overlooking a 
large room filled with the humming 
giants that were the core of the lab — 
the computers. 

Open House also included (via remote 
camera) the chambers where the critical 
assemblies were used, and we were 
shown the SCRAM emergency systems. 
We were allowed into Ancho Canyon 
to see the buried quonset hut filled with 
electronic instruments; they fired the 
resident ordnance (I think a 150mm 
self-propelled cannon) and demonstrated 
the uncanny speed of their photo ma- 
chines. We were taken to see the health 
sciences buildings, which had far more 
mice than the city had people, along with 
hundreds of dogs and monkeys. Every- 
where, except for relatives' offices, we 
were carefully chaperoned; guards, 
dour- faced and armed, blocked off doors 
and corridors. With the budget cuts of 
the '60s the Open House was discon- 

I returned in 1971 with a high-school 
science class. We again toured the medi- 
cal physics buildings and this time were 
introduced to a friendly beagle who had 
been repeatedly irradiated in a canister- 
like device, absorbing many times the 
lethal level of radiation. We were also 

There is a story told (which may not be 
true but is part of Los Alamos folk- 
lore) about the first shot. The bomb's 
radioactive core had already been sent 
to Trinity, but the delicate and all- 
important "lenses" of explosive (that 
slap the radioactive material together) 
had to be moved as well. After much 
discussion it was concluded that a con- 
voy was too visible, and so it was de- 
cided to send the stuff down in the tnmk 
of a plain passenger car with several 
other cars as guards. They set off in 
good order; all went well until some- 
where south of Albuquerque, when a 
sheriff spotted the car and, with siren 
and hghts going full tilt, flagged it down 
and forced it over. As he got out of his 
car he found himself looking down the 
barrels of several weapons. Nervously 
he explained that he had just wanted 
to tell the driver that his car had no 
license plate. He was placed under 
armed guard and taken to the test 
range, where he was warned to remain 
silent about it and released. It was 
never clear to the project members if 
the lack of a license plate was an 
oversight, or if it was done to avoid 
having the car traced back to its owner. 

taken to the Meson Physics Facility, a 
linear accelerator then under construc- 
tion. One area was off limits to us, being 
dedicated to neutron research. We went 
to Project Sherwood, located in a decep- 
tively small-looking annex that juts out 
from one of the wings of the admini- 
stration building. This is the home of 
one of Los Alamos' oldest projects — 
the search for controlled nuclear fusion. 
We also visited another old friend, one 
that had made an enormous impression 
when I first saw it as a child: the Omega 
Water Reactor. Looking down through 
the deep pool that blocks the radiation 
and cools the pile, I saw at the bottom a 
honeycomb pattern of fuel rods and 
moderator rods, illuminated with an 
unearthly blue glow (known as the 
Cherenkov Effect) caused by the scat- 
tering of particles in the water. 

For scientists, the work in Los Alamos 
is not limited to the local labs. My fa- 
ther visited Sandia Labs in Albuquerque 
and frequently traveled to the Livermore 
Lalbs in California, Los Alamos' sister 
facility, for conferences and work ses- 
sions. In the early sixties he went regu- 
larly to Britain to work on their weapons 
program for weeks at a time. Before the 
U.S. and the U.S.S.R. signed the Test 
Ban Treaty in 1963, he was also a regu- 

lar visitor to the Nevada test range and 
to Eniwetok. The postcards and occa; 
sional gifts from the distant places cap- 
tured my imagination; I was fascinated 
by the piece of Trinitite he gave me — 
the glass-like substance formed when the 
heat of a nuclear weap>on fuses the silicon 
in sand. 

He wouldn't talk about what he did in 
Britain, but was slightly more forth- 
coming about the Pacific. One story 
illustrated the security mentality there. 
He had been working on the shot tower, 
calibrating some instruments on the "de- 
vice," when nature called. He climbed 
down and told the army guard at the gate 
not to let anyone disturb the tower. 
Moments later, the guard was writing 
him up for a security infraction: He had 
left the site in the custody of a person 
not authorized to have custody (i.e. the 
guard). Although an infraction is a serious 
matter, and my father took his oaths 
seriously, he was really pissed at this 
doublethink. He stormed into the pro- 
ject office waving the infraction over his 
head and threatening to resign "RIGHT 
NOW!" Given his seniority, and the 
trouble of transporting him back to the 
U.S., the security chief tore up the in- 

My father mistrusted the secrecy, once 
asking me, "Do you think that physics 
or math is different on the other side of 
the border? Do you think the Russians 
are any less competent at math?" He felt 
that 90% of the staff he dealt with could 
be declassified without imperiling any 
legitimate national security interest, and 
that most of the secrecy was a bureau- 
cratic dodge, or laziness, or one-upman- 
ship. In fact, it could even be damaging. 
A short-cut he had developed in some 
statistical procedure saved hundreds of 
hours. But it was a couple of years be- 
fore his group told Livermore about it, 
and he felt that nobody outside of the 
labs will ever see it, despite its appli- 
cations in other fields. Part of the delay 
in telling Livermore might also spring 
from the long-standing rivalry between 
the two labs. 

Those of us who grew up in such 
families tended, as a game, to try to 
penetrate the walls of secrecy. I would 
talk with my father about his work, try- 
ing to pose slanted or revealing ques- 
tions. He might answer obliquely, or, if 
the question was too direct, he would 
simply give a polite non-answer. If 
pressed, his response was a simple "I 
can't answer that." Recently I went to a 
talk by former CIA analyst Ralph Mc- 
Gee, who used precisely the same words 
in the same tone. His questioner ob- 
viously didn't understand the ground 



rules, and rephrased the question, forcing 
McGee to state explicitly that he couldn't 
answer that question in any form be- 
cause of security restrictions. In Los 
Alamos it was considered bad form to 
push someone, even a parent, hard 
enough to get that sort of response. 

Despite the elaborate security (fences, 
guards, numbered copies, badges, and 
so forth) the code words and euphe- 
misms, the inhabitants of this unique 
village were not ignorant of what they 
did. The machinists, computer techs, 
secretaries, and the like may not have 
"the big picture," but the physicists and 
'mathematicians in the weapons groups, 
as well as the administration types, saw 
it well enough. They, probably more 
than anyone else, know what nuclear 
weapons can do. The original scientists 
were very concerned about the role of the 
bomb, discussing it in political terms, 
not just technical ones. The questions 
raised were often profoundly disturbing 
to them. The later scientists saw them- 
selves as distinct from the military on one 
hand, and from the policy makers on 
the other. They rationalized that they 
were not responsible for the final de- 
cisions. My father made an illuminating 
reference to this view of the lab's posi- 
tion when he said of the Pentagon, 
Don't confuse us with those bastards." 

There is an inherent schizophrenia 
in this position. My father pointed out 
that the various directors of the lab (Op- 
penheimer, Norris Bradbury and Harold 
Agnew) would say, in effect, "Nuclear 
weapons are one of the greatest threats 
to the planet today. A solution must be 
found or we will perish." Then, without 
a perceptible shifting of mental gears, 
they would add, "It is our mission here 
at the lab to develop the best and most 
useful weapons." From one side of the 
mouth speaks the humanist, and from 
the other the company man. 

Another example of this contradiction 
was my father's fondness for Bertolt 
Brecht, particularly his play Galileo, which 
examines the scientist's relationship to 
the state. Galileo was written when Brecht 
heard about the splitting of the atom. 
This pattern is not unusual in Los Ala- 
mos: an intellectual openness counter- 
balanced by a deeply ingrained confor- 
mity to the ideology of the day. 

My father explained that when he had 
first come to the labs, and earlier when 
he did some very mysterious work at 
Princeton, there had been a different 
feeling about patriotism. Nuclear 
weapons were (to them) unquestionably 
necessary in the face of an 'obvious threat" 
from a powerful and "aggressive" Soviet 
Union. He was also aware that almost 


every major escalation in the arms race 
had been initiated by the U.S. (the fis- 
sion bomb, the fusion bomb, delivery 
systems such as submarines, MIRVs, 
etc.). It is this "peaceful coexistence" of 
contradictory beliefs that is at the core 
of this state of mind. 

There were no "Atomic City Burgers" 
at Los Alamos, not much glorification 
of the bomb or loud patriotism. Although, 
or perhaps because, these people worked 
with radiation in all its forms, there was 
not much mythology about it, and cer- 
tainly not an unquestioning acceptance. 
My father, for instance, was against 
commercial nuclear power, feeling that 
a safe plant could perhaps be built, but 
that there was no credible plan to deal 
with the amazing amounts of waste. 
Burial was absurd, he said, if nothing 
else because the government can't plan 
rationally for five years, let alone for 
five thousand. This characterizes the 
denizens of Los Alamos: they are not 
jingoes, and they don't want to see the 
bombs used (Teller, at least in those days, 
was seen as something of a freak). 

Civil defense, very much in style in 
those days, also came in for some criti- 
cism. The horrible joke of the "shelters" 
was explained to me at an early age. 
The reason for having us hide under the 
school desks I figured out by myself: 
it was to keep us under control, with 
the added benefit of letting us die in a 
humiliating position. Los Alamos once 
had a practice evacuation that was 
planned and announced for months in 
advance. Certain roads were designated 
as one-way, signs were set up, maps 
mailed. When the glorious Saturday 
came, half the citizens followed the 
evacuation plans when the sirens began 
to howl and the other half didn't. There 
was a tremendous traffic jam that took 
hours to unsnarl. 

Los Alamos is a coldly cerebral com- 

munity when at work, and my parents 
at least were that way at home as well. 
My peers and I grew up as miniature 
adults: verbally sophisticated, reasonable 
and outwardly oriented. I didn't know 
many families that were close; my friends 
were quite as remote from their parents 
as I was from mine. Perhaps warmth 
and love are corroded by the town's moral 
tension, secrecy, unemotional routines, 
and relentless intellectualism. My half- 
sister, who visited occasionally, said that 
as a child I was extremely "clingy." (This 
came back to her when she read a Time 
article about a Los Alamos girl who was 
asked what she would be if she could be 
anything in the world; she replied that 
she wanted to be a teddy bear, so that 
she would always be hugged.) Not a very 
warm community, but one that un- 
doubtedly produces a lot of academiczilly 
proficient kids determined to win accep- 

Although there were some very re- 
ligious people there, I was raised by de- 
termined agnostics. We attended services 
at the Unitarian church (a converted 
army barracks), which were more of a 
social event than a religious one. Despite 
my father's antireligious background (a 
product of his strict Christian upbringing 
in Tulsa) he developed an interest in 
Buddhism. With Paul Stein, the local 
genius, he learned to read Tibetan. He 
had a substantial collection of books and 
Tibetan artifacts; there was a prayer 
wheel on his desk and demon masks 
looked down on him as he worked. As I 
grew older I wondered where this interest 
came from . . . Some sort of hangover 
from Oppenheimer at Trinity? Latent 
brain damage? The mystery of distant 
places? An attempt to inject spirit into 
this most unspiritual world? 

The morality of the weapons research 
was not openly discussed, as everyone 
understood why it was done. The labs 


were a self-contained world, filled with 
people of similar backgrounds and ideas, 
who had grown up at a time and place 
when you just didn't question your coun- 
try. Such issues (which weren't really 
questions but curiosities) were secondary. 
There were probably some who ques- 
tioned the work, but for the most part it 
was taken as a postulate. Strange contra- 
dictions abounded — praise for peace 
combined with hostility to the Test Ban 
Treaty. One man who worked at the lab 
was a total vegetarian — no milk, no 
leather, nothing. Others were merely 
antisocial and eccentric, such as one 
mathematician who disliked his office 
and had a janitor clear out a broom closet 
and install his desk, lamp, and chair in 
it. My father knew him for twenty years 
and only occasionally got a "Hi, Ralph" 
out of him. 

When the outside world brought its 
concerns to the lab, it was usually re- 
ceived politely. In one demonstration 
in the late '70s, a peace group had gotten 
permission to stage a rally in the admini- 
stration parking lot. Several of the physi- 
cists in my father's group talked to the 
demonstrators through a high fence. 
They disagreed with the demonstrators, 
but felt that they had a right to protest 
(just as the workers had a right to work). 
The protestors planted a small tree in the 
dirt of the parking lot as a memento of 
peace. The next day the security people 
dug up the tree, prompting my father 
to make sarcastic remarks about un- 
authorized trees and being "bugged." 
The Los Alamos city council actually 
considered a Freeze resolution a few 
years ago, but narrowly failed to pass it. 

Los Alamos has some strong appeals 
for those who like mathematical games 
and technical toys. They are seduced by 
the dance of equations— a very elegant 
world, quantifiable, controlled, and self- 
contained. To them, the final application 
is less important than the development, 
the pursuit of knowledge. Los Alamos is 
one of the few places where they are able 
to work in such fields as solar physics 
(not only do they get paid, but they get to 
be patriots). Only the very best solar 
physicists land jobs in universities; the 
rest end up at various government and 
private labs. As my father explained 
once, the hydrogen bomb is really just 
like the sun, except of a somewhat short- 
er duration. (I reminded him that it was 
also a little bit closer to the Earth.) 

As the years went on, my father be- 
came increasingly disaffected with the lab 
and with the country as a whole. He 
felt the labs were becoming more self- 
serving, and were now less a tool to car- 
ry out policy than active advocates of 
certain policies and strategies. The name 
of the labs changed from the Los Alamos 
Scientific Laboratory to the Los Alamos 
National Laboratories, reflecting a dif- 
ferent set of requirements. Specifically, 
the focus changed from roughly half 
military to more like 70% military. The 
new people there were also different. 
When my father semi-retired in 1981, 
he had been there for thirty years; the 
next longest anyone else in his group had 
been there was seven years. He came to 
feel quite alienated from these colleagues, 
the technically polished short-timers who 
wouldn't be at the lab for life. They 
didn't ask the same questions, either 

practical or moral. Those who had been 
adults when the bomb arrived had 
to think about it in hard terms; those 
who had grown up with it accepted it 
fatalistically. The company news maga- 
zine. The Atom, which he took to refer- 
ring to as "Pravda," had had a question- 
and-answer column, which had at least 
some questions that were germane 
(though somewhat fewer answers). As 
time went on, there were fewer and fewer 
questions, and even fewer answers. 

The lab was not his only source of dis- 
satisfaction. Both he and my mother, 
once Goldwater Republicans, turned 
against the Vietnam war (but voted for 
Nixon twice!). My father hated to see 
the environment destroyed, and was ap- 
palled at Watergate. The overthrow of 
Allende in 1973 in Chile was a crime 
that my father as a "democrat" — a parti- 
san of peaceful electoral change — could 
not forgive. Shortly before he died, he 
signed a petition against U.S. aid to El 

The factors that led to his disenchant- 
ment were not obvious. Although I may 
have played a part, it was a change (or 
a perceived change) in his beloved insti- 
tutions that made him begin to question 
the system. He had always been analyti- 
cally inclined, and irrational policy (such 
as ICBM defense systems) irritated him. 
It wasn't somebody explaining what nu- 
clear weapons could do or lecturing him 
on his lack of morality that brought 
changes, but rather the system he believed 
in revealing itself as hypocritical and 

For me it is all long past, and I know 
only a few retired people at Los Alamos. 
When I went to get my father's posses- 
sions from his office at the time of his 
death in 1982, I met his group leader, 
Dave, who talked about my father. Ralph, 
said Dave, could tell you that somebody 
had tried something years before and 
why it hadn't worked; he was superb at 
math and statistics, and was generally a 
good guy, well liked by them all. I gave 
them his yard-long slide rule, the Ger- 
man books on differential equations 
(published by the Custodian of Alien 
Property in WWII because of national 
need). I left with bittersweet recollec- 
tions of those days, and some small me- 
mentos, such as a yellow button pro- 
claiming that "Uncle Stan Is Always 
Right" (a mysterious reference to Stan 
Ulam, a famous mathematician). There 
are some certificates for participation 
at various shots, photographs, a few 
Indian relics — and ambivalent memories 
of a kind man who designed thermo- 
nuclear weapons. A 

— by G. S. Williamson 




.ac Jimson was barely paying attention to the 
television when he saw the first of the commercials. 
He considered whether to get a snack during the 
commercial break or whether to simply turn off 
the TV. A half dozen other ideas were running 
through his neurons, of course, but he was not con- 
scious of them. 

A belly dancer, plump sensual shakings of exag- 
gerated female softness, was being appreciated in 
the commercial by a slightly less plump, casually 
inert, handsome man holding a beer. The woman 
finished her dance by collapsing into the man's arms 
and the camera zoomed in on his beer as he set it 
aside; the announcer intoned "Spuds, the full beer 
for the full life." 

Mac was slightly aroused by the T & A display of 
the commercial, noted that it was against his anti- 
chauvinist principles, that he 
hated being manipulated through 
his testicles, and that it was the 
sexiest thing he had seen on 
TV for some time. He was 
quickly brought back to norm 
by an ad for Crazy Eddie's mid- 
summer Christmas gigantic 
blowout sale: He blacked out 
the TV and moved towards the 

He had already put in an 
eight hour day for the law firm 
of Riddles, Wilscams, and 
Walkingsham summarizing in- 
formation from commercial documents so that brain 
dead lawyers could understand it. Now he was 
scheduled to do his real work: keeping the NFL (No 
Free Lunch) network informed of whatever its 
members needed to know. But that made for a long 
day and a mushy mind, so he inventoried his refri- 
gerator and then ate a few green, seedless grapes. 

Fortunately the new issue of "Military Reviev/' 
had come in that day. It never ceased to please him 
that he could get the official strategy magazine of 
the officer corps of the US army delivered to his 
home. At one point he had tried to get peace move- 
ment organizaions to subscribe to it so they too 
would know what was going on, but they univer- 

"Isn't it horrible?" she said. 
"All those years of dieting, 
and now they are trying to 

fatten people up again. I 
don't think women will stand 
for it. On TV the women will 

grow fat breasts, but the 

rest of us wUl just get ^der 

asses and lard stomachs. I 

hate to think how disgusting 

men are going to look." 

sally refused, not wanting to support the military, 
nor being particularly concerned with facts beyond 
counting warheads. This month's articles included 
typical ones such as "Airland Battle: Winning on the 
European Front," "Motivating Soldiers Over 200 
Rads," and "The TOW7 Missile, Will it Work on 
the Battlefield?" The only unusual one was called: 
"Is Lean Really Mean in a Fighting Machine?" 
which advocated feeding the troops more so they 
would have caloric reserves to burn if supplies ran 
short in the new, highly mobile battlefield. 

Next he read a number of articles that NFL 
members had sent him, some by U.S. mail and 
some by modem. They covered the gamut of science, 
politics, economics and culture. He filed all of them; 
most he summarized for NFL, and a couple he de- 
cided should be sent out in their entirety. His final 
chore for the evening was put- 
ting in an hour analysing the 
political implications of the 
economic situation in the con- 
tinent of Africa, which in turn 
was being affected by the unrest 
in the Republic of Azania. 

The next Sunday as he browsed 
through the New York Times he 
noticed an article in the maga- 
zine section titled "The New 
Full Figure in Fashion." The 
models were almost as skinny 
as ever, but now larger breasts 
and more curves around the 
torso were said to be coming back into style. 

It was much less radical than the Spuds belly 
dancer, but it might be more influential in the long 
run. Personally, he had never been attracted to 
overly skinny women; more important, it was clearly 
an indication of top level planning. The Times, 
Budmiller, and the Army were in theory quite dis- 
tinct organizations. It was not likely to be an acci- 
dent that all three were, within a week of each other, 
advocating putting on a layer of fat for winter. 

He dialed up Eliot. An answering machine blasted 
out a trumpet call to battle with people laughing in 
the background, followed by chimes, animal sounds, 
and Benny Goodman played simultaneously, and 



finally the tone. "Answer the phone you 
lazy commie dupe" screamed Mac, but 
there was no answer, so he left his name 
and number. 

The next day Mac's phone rang 
around 7 p.m. It was Eliot. 

"Hey, Mac, what's up?" 

"Not much. People at work are driv- 
ing me crazy. There's a party Thursday 
at Rick's, but I probably won't go. 
Where've you been?" 

"Some congressman's aide wanted 
to know what the US military was doing 
with all that money the budget says is for 
fifth generation military computers, 
and of course the only people who know 
that are SU intelligence. They of course 
were not just going to give me the in- 
formation, so it required some creative 
doing on my part. Sometimes I wish 
these congressmen would mind their 
own business, but then again they are 
paying customers." 

Despite some misgivings Eliot agreed 
to look into the fat matter. Eliot's par- 
ents had made a fortune as aggressive 
corporate lawyers; the same personality 
programs that made them successful 

caused Eliot to hate them and reject 
their values and attitudes. Being of 
a curious and ingenious bent he had 
eventually set himself up as an informa- 
tion consultant, the paralegal's friend, 
buying and selling corporate secrets. 
Thus he could watch the world, and, at 
critical nexuses, attempt to bend it to 
his liking. 

This was not, however, a matter 
where his paralegal contacts would be of 
use. Fortunately he knew a secretary at 
the National Council of Advertisers. 
Since corpos and top level bureaucrats 
aren't about to do their own typing, 
there are always people lower down who 
are willing to pass the word along, either 
for the public good or for money. 

Since only government agencies and 
large corporations could. afford to buy 
large amounts of advertisement, and 
since they could always be counted on 
to keep the rich rich, the workers work- 
ing and the SU looking bad, it was only 
natural that they democratically coordi- 
nate efforts to keep TV, radio, and 
newspaper programming in the public 
interest. One year this might mean 
patriotism, another year commercials 
portraying a h^py life in the US army, 

• one year encouraging women to leave 
the home to. join the workforce and 

; another year encouraging women to 

leave the workforce to have babies. To 
carry out this function the NCA had a 
permanent staff, but real decisions were 
made by a board that consisted of po- 
litically astute corporate board members 
and bureaucrats; it met regularly four 
times a year to set policy. 

Regina Redgrave was not sworn to 
secrecy; it had never occurred to anyone 
that she should be. While the NCA did 
not advertise its recommendations, it did 
not try to hide them. The same class 
of people, in fact often the same people, 
controlled the NCA that controlled the 
assorted news media. Occasionally a 
smaller dissident publication might ex- 
plain the role of the NCA to its extreme- 
ly limited readership, but generally no 
one cared. 

Regina was irritated when Eliot called, 
partly because she had more work to do 
than normal, but mostly because he had 
not called in a long time. Regina had 
a masters degree in English; her most 
salable skill was her typing speed. She 
liked intellectual company and felt, cor- 
rectly, that Eliot did not think she was 
interesting enough for him. 

She said no when he asked her to have 
lunch with her. Half an hour later he 
called back. He offered to introduce 
her to a cUte, eligible Rand intern, a 
bit. young for her perhaps, but with a 
passion fpr early 20th cejitury American 
novelrsts, her specialty. So she agreed to 
have dinner with them at Hempsteds. 

■^S:<t^v.,. -.*'^/:^.•. •::r;-.v 


It was not difficult to get Regina into 
a conversation once she got over his 
tricking her. He mainly let her talk. 
Eventually she turned to complaining 
about her work. At the apropros mo- 
ment he made a joke about helping to 
fatten up the nation. 

"Isn't it horrible?" she said. "All those 
years of dieting and now they are trying 
to fatten people up again. I don't think 
women will stand for it. On TV the 
women will grow fat breasts, but the 
rest of us will just get wider asses and 
lard stomachs. I hate to think how dis- 
gusting men are going to look." 

"I'm surprised. Medical costs are a 
big problem in America these days, and 
thin is healthy. I suppose they can lie 
with statistics if they are that determined 
to fatten us up." 

"They've solved that problem," said 
Regina, who paused to laugh. "We are 
to eat starchy, low cholesterol calories 
and fish oil. McBurger has ads coming 
out soon for their new fish sandwiches, 
fried in ocean fish oil instead of lard, 
and scientifically proven to help reduce 

"I just don't understand why anyone 
would want to put us through this." 

"Neither do I," said Regina. 

Eliot asked her to the movies, certain 
she would refuse, but she accepted; such 
is the way of the world. 

When he got Eliot's report Mac de- 
cided he could not follow it up himself 
right away. He was under pressure to 
work overtime at Riddles, Wilscams and 
had several other projects going. In ad- 
dition he had, as the psychologists say, 
habituated to the new pattern: while he 
still noted each new commercial ad 
that encouraged people to fatten up, he 
did not have any driving desire to find 
out why the rulers of the US desired 
this. Probably it was because the econo- 
my was in a downswing and this cam- 
paign would require a higher rate of 

Nevertheless, he sent a report out to 
all NFL members. Many of them had 
already noted the phenomenon them- 
selves, including Athena Dematrio. Her 
parents had emigrated from one of the 
client states of the SU, which they 
hated. As far as Athena could tell there 
was not much difference between the 
two superstates. Her parents, former 
black marketeers, had spent time in 
prison; in the US this made them heroes 
and they were given good jobs and were 

patriots. Of course, if they had behaved 
towards the US the same way they be- 
haved towards the SU they would be in 
prison here or in a ghetto. Athena con- 
sidered herself above the US-SU rivalry, 
had joined international peace organi- 
zations while in college, and was black- 
listed from the PhD. programs that were 
worth entering. Hence she had ended 
up with a useless MA and worked for a 
pittance at a small medical research 
company; like him she made money on 
the side doing odd projects. This al- 
lowed her to finance her own studies of 
the physical mechanics of consciousness. 

She had other interests, however, one 
of which was having a long life. She had 
seen one editorial on the detrimental 
effects of being underweight on health 
and particularly on the health of in- 
fants in her local newspaper, but it was 
hardly convincing. Her own personal 
observation was that there were plenty 
of skinny women on the street, and un- 
dernourished children and mothers in 
the ghettoes, but that despite decades of 
diets most US clones were in no danger 
of being too thin. She figured that given 
the rather unnatural condition of having 



unlimited food available, the natural 
tendency would be to fatten up. 

When she had a chance she sat down 
at her employer's FLEXIS terminal to 
do a computerized literature search. 

She typed in: "Select (fat or diet?) 
and surviv?". 

Moments later the computer an- 
swered: "Set 1 . (fat? or diet?) and sur- 
viv? 317 ref." 

She decided the key article was not 
likely to have been written more than 
four years earlier, so she limited Set 1 
to that date range, saw the number of 
references cut down to 63, printed them 
out, and skimmed down them: 

1. Absence of L- Factor and Survival of 
D-Malignant Rats 

2. Frequency Distribution of Myocardial In- 
farction in Post 

3. Janitor Falls Five Stories, Claims Saved 
by UFO 

4. Survival of Black Mutant Moths Linked 
to Transposable 

5. Hundreds of Deer Die of Starvation in 
Mesa Range 

6. Disadvantages of US Popular Culture in 
Surviving. . . 

Athena did not bother to read the rest 
of the list; she typed in a request for 
more information on reference 6. 

The computer obliged with a printout: 


Disadvantages of US Popular Culture in 
Surviving Nuclear Winter; A Comparison 
with the Soviet Union, with Recommendations 

IN: Important Documents from Private Re- 
search Organizations in Government and the 
Social Sciences (June 1986, Vol. 31, p.24). 

AUTHOR: Eric Nurdlinger. 37 pages. 

"That's my baby," Athena said aloud, 
and proceeded to print out the full text 
of the article. This was expensive, but 
she had a deal with the bookkeeper so 
that the bill would go to a big corporate 
client hidden within a larger research 

Given the title, the text was not much 

of a surprise. The populace of the SU 
was typically 27 pounds more over- 
weight than the population of the US. 
This would give them several advan- 
tages over people in the US in the after- 
math of nuclear war. Their own fat was 
a fuel that would be free of radiation, 
allowing them to go for several weeks 
longer than their rivals without having 
to intake large quantities of contami- 
nated foods. Since large amounts of 
radiation dissipate in the first few weeks, 
this could be a major factor in survival. 
People could survive relatively long 
periods of time on slightly contaminated 
foods. In addition, with the tempera- 
ture drop that would take place rela- 
tively quickly after dust clouds black 
out the sun, the fat would serve as in- 
sulation. It even had reserves of vitamin 
D that would help keep them healthy 
until the sun came back. 

She decided she could wait until the 
next day to see if there were other articles 



that referred back to Nurdlinger's. 
She went home, digested the article down 
to a few hundred words, and sent it out 
by modem to Mac. 

A magnetic disk absorbed the ones and 
zeroes that could make sense only to 
humans of that time and culture; Mac 
was watching TV. It was a science fic- 
tion thriller of the old type about people 
fighting off giant ants and lizawds after 
a nuclear war. 

Mac remembered the Spuds in his 
hand and took a swig as three young 
models breasty and baby faced brought 
his attention back to the screen. They 
were just selling cars. 
Eventually he dragged himself up and 
checked the incoming mail. He was 
pleased to see the input from Athena 
because it proved he had been right and 
ended with a personal message that he 
had not been out her way awhile. He 
sent out the rest of the message to NFL 
and sat back to consider the future. 

He knew there was little that dis- 
tinguished government planning against 
the eventuality of nuclear war and gov- 
ernment planning for nuclear war. It 
was mevitable, but the question he 
wanted answered was when? He had 
already visited a country that he thought 
might be relatively untouched by the war 
and made arrangements to live there. 
He had a computer program that can- 
celled an airline reservation to it every 
day and booked a new one three weeks 
in the future. 

If people had been willing to revolt, 
he would have revolted with them. But 
it had all happened so gradually, it had 
never quite been worth resisting for 
most people. It was easy enough to be- 
lieve that it could not happen. How long 
would it take for people to get fat? Was 
that what they were waiting for, or per- 
haps the next generation of missiles or 
anti-missile weapons or incidents be- 
tween their client states? 

The lights went out and all his equip- 
ment died. EMP? He hit himself in the 
head, regretting not having got out 
earlier. It took him a couple of minutes 
to remember where the flashlight was 
and find it, each moment expecting 
sudden vaporization. Since he was al- 
ready in the basement he decided to 
check the fuse box before taking more 
extreme measures. 

The fuse to his basement had tripped. 
He decided he would leave the country 
a few days after getting his next pay- 
check, but in the back of his mind he 
knew it was not likely. It did not seem 
dangerous enough, not yet. He took a 
swig of his beer, sat down, and drained 
the can. He looked down. For the first 
time in years he had an obvious beer 
belly. He was getting fat. 

— by J. G. Eccarins 









(for Phoebe) 


unemployed at 
Alameda Beach knowing 
everything is 
all right/through 

my moments of hysteria that say 
everything is terrible & 
Phoebe will throw me 
out of the house & 


me to live in the 

streets because 

it's against her morals to 

pay more than half 

the bills & 

better the bomb divest 

the earth of San Francisco then 

1 should fall into 

debt to my loved 


then there's little 
Phoebe beside me on 
the beach being 
more hysterical than 


that I will throw myself 
into the bed of the 
first rich woman/as if 
my darlings ever 

got off welfare 


I'm running off to 

work in Alaska & 

she'll die without 


still a sounder alternative 
by far than lending me a 
bloody cent. 

with all this support for 

my impecunious bones 

it makes 

the beautiful Bay before 

me with its 

glorious swimmers, sails & 


the faded hills of 

the Peninsula & 

San Francisco way off on 

the far shore 

a bit 
less splendid. 

by Fritz Hamilton 



a poem in the 

doorway at 
16th & Guerrero when 

people living in this 
bldg might not like me 

in this doorway at 

16th & Guerrero & 
would like me & my 

poem to move away from 

their doorway but 

they don't realize I'm 
the doorway type 

in them when 1 get 

in them when 1 have 

no other place to live & 

of course writing in 
them because 
I'm comfortable in doorways 

when people tell me to 
get the hell away from 

their doorway because 

that makes me feel like 
shit which 
makes me feel at 


it's allright you know 
it's never winter here 
unless you will it to be 

and they sang songs to 
the sky and to the dirty sea 
until the bitter bitter end 

by Owen Hill 


♦ ^♦♦* 

^^^^ A"' ihr't^rJ 


^- z.^^- 


We are being moved up to the front. 

Some soldiers board in Summit. 

They are young, no more than 17 or 18. 

They sit together, not saying very much 

while reading their Wall Street Journals 

and back issues of Fortune. 

They have no idea of what the fighting will be like. 

They are the lucky ones. 

Short Hills, Pomfret Loop, Vicuna — 

more soldiers get on. 

They do not say much, either, 

although they are older and have already gone to war- 

if not this one, then the one before, 

or the one before that. 

As we cross the meadows 
our train is strafed by a Stuka. 
The man next to me, silent until now, screams 
when his face is torn apart by the flying glass. 
There are more screams as we dive for cover. 
Our only antiaircraft gun misses everything. 
The plane, having had enough fun, veers off 
toward the New York skyline, leaving us 
to lirrip into Hoboken. 

Someone up ahead is barking orders. 

I hear my name. 

I heal the wounded as best as I can. 

The station is bone quiet. 

I get off, get into formation, 

and go to work. 

by Jay A. Blumenthal 





there is always 

someone named linda in accounts payable 

or joe in the mailroom or sue 

in personnel; someone is always 

squinting to repair some eyeliner in the women's 

restrooms on the first floor. 

occasionally, all elevators work. 

in some buildings 

there's an elevator man who seems 

to remember a good many names. 

it's that personal touch, she noted, glancing 

down at her fingernails. 

no. it's not necessarily true 

that most secretaries have long, blood-inducing 

fingernails, but there's always some out-of-place 

clerk, who, with slightly oily hair, flips through 

a pile of invoices as anonymously as anyone 

sent over by any of the temp agencies but 

when you glance again you see 

she's wearing an earphone 

that's attached 

to a small, transistor radio. 

she talks to no one. she is never asked back 

when the supervisor calls upon 

the agency 

for temporary help. 

i notice the desk is vacant. 

otherwise nothing's missing from 

this city. 

by Evelyn Posamentier 




I'm tired of feeding good lines to the witless, 

but there are no replacements. 
Glen Ford has turned down the part, 
Elliott Gould says no. 
Zeppo Marx is busy — dead, 1 think, 
I told my father, but he said 

he was too old for screwball comedy; 

besides, he doesn't look like me. 

It went on like that: Abe the accountant, 
Sosnick, Lovelace, my friends 
from the chess club — all with 
their reasons for being someone else. 

I'm stuck. 

No one liked the hours, the travel. 

Poetry least of all. 

I offered my life around. 

The extras liked my wife, which 

made me feel good — up to a point, 

but I lacked star quality. 
("Not even me on a temporary basis?") 

I said I couldn't run forever. 

I spoke of possibilities, renewal, things 
beyond documentation, other parts, the real stage, 
my secret dream — creating software that generates 
infinite Gary Grant movies. 

But still there were no takers, not here, 
2000 feet above Wall Street, where 
jokes are confused with laughter. 

by Jay A. Blumenthal 




Life in a Terrorist State 

An Buenos Aires in 1977, we drank a cheap red 
wine that came in a five-Uter jug resting in a grey 
plastic basket. This wine was called Montonero, 
which refers to a band of guerrillas who fought for 
Argentina's independence from Spain. In the 1970's 
the name Montonero was adopted by leftist revolu- 
tionaries who claimed to be supporters of Peron and 
who were being hunted down by the military govern- 
ment. So it was that one got a little thrill in the gro- 
cery store by asking for a bottle of subversion. 

One night, deep into the wine, as* a party was 
winding down, I got into an impassioned argument 
with my closest friend. She said that civil liberties 
and individual rights belonged to a political stage 
that can be outgrown. I insisted that these rights and 
liberties were ends in themselves. We cried as we 
recognized how deep the political chasm was between 
us. When political dissent is 
punishable by death, as it was 
in Argentina from 1976 to 1983, 
ideological differences are not 
trivial. We both considered 
ourselves of the left, but here 
we were sharing a psychic fox- 
hole and thinking that we would 
be enemies in some future re- 
volutionary struggle. 

In 1977, at the height of the 
government's reign of terror, 
the director of an English lan- 
guage academy, a bright, mid- 
dle-aged Argentine woman who 
considered herself middle-of-the-road echoed the 
popular opinion of her milieu and blamed "cafe in- 
tellectuals" for creating the atmosphere that led to 
left wing violence and the military coup. But the 
violence on the left — the kidnappings of multina- 
tional executives for huge ransoms and attacks on 
government installations — was quite mild compared 
to the reaction. The "war against subversion" was 
merely an excuse for the military, acting on behalf 
of various economic and political interests, to take 

In the same year, an engineer at Texas Instru- 
ments Argentina told me that the kidnappings of 
U.S. managers had been a boon for the native man- 

. . . Subway billboards 
showed a picture of a child 
looking up to his benevolent 
father juxtaposed with the 
image of a worker looking 
up to his boss, and a notice 
in a police station warned 

parents of the dangers of 
allowing their unmarried, 
adult children to live away 

from home with friends. 

agers who replace them. By 1978, however, Texas 
Instruments judged the situation secure enough to 
send in a North American, who spoke no Spanish, 
to act as personnel manager. 

I first came to Argentina in October 1974. Isabel 
Peron, Juan Peron's widow, was president and the 
mood was manic. Peronism is a nationalistic move- 
ment that pretends to unite naturally antagonistic 
elements, namely, workers and capitalists. To sup- 
port it requires a suspension of disbelief. (The first 
time I saw Isabel giving a speech on TV, I thought 
I was witnessing a historic moment — a head of state 
having a nervous breakdown in front of the camera. 
But my friends explained that she always screamed 
when she addressed the nation.) The fact that the 
government had survived the death of Juan Peron, 
a master politician, a few months earlier also con- 
tributed to the giddiness. But 
the center was still holding. The 
official rate of exchange was 10 
pesos to the dollar, the black 
market rate was 20 to the dol- 
lar. And it stayed at that rate 
for several months. (Ten years 
later the exchange rate was over 
one million to the dollar. In 
1985, the inflation rate was 
more than 1,000 percent a year.) 
Prices were strictiy controlled 
and changed every few weeks. 
When I went to a linen shop to 
buy sheets and towels, the clerk 
would have to calculate the price from an arcane 
list. There were shortages of basic necessities like 
toilet paper, white sugar, and cooking oil, because 
shopkeepers were hoarding. I soon learned, how- 
ever, to ask for what I did not see on the shelves. 
Toilet paper might not be displayed on a grocer's 
shelf, but it was likely that he kept a supply under 
the counter for regular customers. During 24-hour 
general strikes, shops would be shuttered but the 
doors in the metal gates would be open. 

Generally, it was felt that Argentina was such a 
rich country, generously endowed with natural re- 
sources, high agricultural production, and a strong 
industrial base, that problems of distribution would 



eventually be solved. "At least we've 
never had hunger in this country," was 
an often-heard expression of apolocv and 
pride. Hunger did not become noticeable 
until 1980, when for the first time in 
memory beggars appeared on the streets 
of Buenos Aires. In 1985, the New York 
Times reported: "The standard of living 
in Argentina has greatly dropped since 
the 1940's and humanitarian groups es- 
timate that 35 percent of Argentine chil- 
dren suffer from malnutrition." 

In 1974 and 1975, workers could still 
vacation at seaside hotels owned by their 
unions, and even though a housing shor- 
tage resulted in "villas de miseria" where 
families lived in hovels, there was no 
visible hunger or malnutrition. The high 
employment rate was a matter of national 
pride often touted in the press. Everyone 
I knew had a job. Having a regular job 
was very important then, as virtually 
every occupation from factory worker 
to bank clerk to musician to journalist 
had a trade union that provided enor- 
mous benefits— including complete health 
and dental care and inexpensive holiday 
resorts. These benefits were financed by 
the employers' tax contribution to the 
social welfare fund. 

During the period immediately pre- 
ceding the military coup, downtown 
newsstands sold Che Guevara banners 
alongside soccer pennants. Marxist 
books were prominently displayed next 
to horoscopes. At the same time, people 
were being arrested as suspected subver- 
sives. The police reports in the news- 
papers would state that on raiding the 
premises certain incriminating books 
were found. These books were sold open- 
ly in bookstores. 

I had come to Argentina from Spain, 
where the cult of Franco was observed 
by having his image widely diffused in 
public buildings, on postage stamps, and 
on coins. But this did not prepare me 
for Peronist iconography. Let us just say 

that Peronism is to Francoism as the 
tango is to the minuet. Idealized portraits 
of Isabel and Juan Peron, drawn in the 
style of cheap religious paintings ap- 
peared on huge, garish posters and bill- 
boards everywhere you looked, the mes- 
sage being that they were the spiritual, 
as well as the political, parents of the 
nation. My favorite showed a holy trinity 
with Juan and Eva Peron in heaven as 
two points in a triangle shining their 
light on Isabel as if she were their daugh- 
ter, if not the messiah. 

The other side of this quasi-comical 
cult was the influence that Jose Lppez 
Rega, Juan Peron's former bodyguard 
and an astrologer who had published 
several books on magic, had over the 
president. He was one of the leaders of 
the gang of right wing murderers and 
terrorists known as the Argentine Anti- 
Communist Association (AAA). Later 
there were also reports of secret prisons 
being established in labor union build- 
ings at this time. Meanwhile the peso 
was slipping, inflation increasing, and 
bombs attributed to the Montoneros (who 
had started life as left-wing Peronists) 
or the Trotskyite ERP (People's Revolu- 
tionary Army) were exploding in gov- 
ernment buildings at night. There were 
also guerrilla activities in the western 
province of Tucuman. By October 1975, 
when I left Argentina, the country was 
waiting for a military coup. 

According to a report published in a 
mass-circulation Argentine magazine in 
1980, Isabel, knowing there was a coup 
in the works, asked the military to join 
her government and offered it key min- 
isterial posts. The military snubbed her 
offer and bided its time. The long-awaited 
coup finally took place in March 1976. 
The first thing I noticed when I returned 
to Buenos Aires in February of 1977 
was the change in attire. February is 
midsummer in Argentina, and Buenos 
Aires is hot and humid. During the 

Peronist administration, which pur- 
ported to be a working-class government, 
men walked around the business district 
in shirt sleeves; coats and ties were rare. 
Now, however, even in the heat, men 
were in full business regalia. Gone too 
were the beards and long hair previously 
favored by many young men. Inflation 
was worse than ever, and the atmosphere 
was somber. 

Argentines are used to military gov- 
ernments almost in the way that we are 
used to Democrats and Republicans 
sharing the White House. But this one 
was radically different. For the first time, 
Argentina suffered rule by terror. Ap- 
proximately 20,000 people disappeared 
under the military junta, most in 1976 
and 1977. To disappear, in this context, 
meant that uniformed or plainclothed 
"security" agents or their lackeys came 
to your house, school, or place of work, 
or grabbed you out of a cafe in broad 
daylight, and you were never heard of 
again. In many cases, the disappeared 
were tortured before they were killed. 
Some were injected with curare before 
they were dropped from planes over the 



Atlantic. Others were buried in mass 
graves with their hands cut off so they 
could not be identified by their finger- 

The population of Argentina is about 
28 million. The equivalent number of 
disappeared in the United States would 
be roughly 200,000 people. Everybody 
I met in Buenos Aires knew at least one 
person, at least remotely, who had dis- 
appeared. If it were not a friend or rela- 
tive, it was a neighbor or a neighbor's 
frierid or relative. Most people wanted 
to believe that the disappeared person 
had done something to deserve their fate, 
because nobody wanted to say, "It could 
have been me." If a psychotherapist was 
disappeared, as many were, people said 
she must have had subversives as clients. 
If a social worker disappeared, people 
said he must have been organizing poor 
people. In any case, the message was 
clear: watch who you associate with, 
don't make friends with strangers or 
participate in cultural activities that may 
lead to unsafe social intercourse. Soldiers 
with rifles and fixed bayonets were every- 
where. T4iey stood guard in front of 
government buildings or might suddenly 
appear in combat position on a tranquil 
residential street. Since there was never 
any street fighting in Buenos Aires, it 
was obvious that the army's strategy 
was to intimidate civilians. A soldier 
could ask you to show your identity 
papers at any time. 

Some of my friends were afraid to go 
to downtown cafes at night, lest they be 
arrested. This was not because they were 
politically involved, but because they 
were artists and feared their eyes or pos- 
ture would betray them as enemies of 
the state. The government took the 
position that "intellectual subversion" was 
more of a threat than armed revolt. The 
police had quotas to fill of suspects who 
could be held incommunicado for .48 
hours while a security check was made. 
One night, the police simply arrested 
everyone at a popular discotheque. 

The Pan American Highway is the 
main thoroughfare out of Buenos Aires. 
In 1978, I traveled this highway by bus 
every day to commute to my job. Each 
morning, I and thousands of other com- 
muters were treated to the sight of sol- 
diers perched on an overpass with their 
rifles pointed at the cars passing below. 
This is what it is like to live in a coun- 
try occupied by its own armed forces 
with the support of international banks 
and the local oligarchy. 

Still, in private conversation most of 
my friends were very outspoken in their 
opposition to the regime. The only ex- 
ceptions were members of illegal organi- 

zations. One night I gave a party in which 
there was a heated discussion of the vir- 
tues of Peronism versus a Marxist- 
Leninist state. A guest, arriving late, 
heard our voices from the hallway and 
went home without entering. "You can't 
just talk like that; you don't know who 
the neighbors are," he explained later. 
From that and other clues, I realized 
that he was in a different position from 
us mere talkers. (I have noticed a similar 
phenomenon in the United States: when 
the conversation turns to drugs, dealers 
and growers clam up unless they know 
everyone present.) 

Fear becomes a habit, as 1 discovered 
during a brief visit back to New York in 
1978. I w?.s standing in a long line in 
front of a shoe store that was going out 
of business, when all of a sudden the 
conversation between two men ahead of 
me erupted into a loud argument. One 
of the men yelled something about the 
U.S. being a racist, imperialist society. 
I looked around anxiously; some people 
smiled absently, nobody was at all dis- 
turbed. It took me a few minutes to rea- 
lize that the man had broken no law, 
that his life was not in danger. 

The military did not pretend to be 
governing by popular consent. Eighty 
percent of the population had voted 
Peronist in the previous election, and 
the military was then the sworn enemy 
of Peronism. (By the time of the 1983 
elections it was backing the Peronist 
party, as was the Reagan administra- 
tion, over the center-left Radical party 
which won the election.) Its propaganda 
and posters on the theme of Work, 
Family, and Country were eerily remini- 
scent of Nazi Germany. Another theme 
was the importance of obedience to 
authority: subway billboards showed a 
picture of a child looking up to his bene- 
volent father juxtaposed with the image 
of a worker looking up to his boss, and 
a notice in a police station warned 
parents of the dangers of allowing their 
unmarried, adult children to live away 
from home with friends. 

Most people hated the government. 
They hated it because the standard of 
living kept falling, inflation was over 
100% most years, businesses and banks 
were failing, and there were no legal 
avenues of protest. Even the anti-Semitic, 
xenophobic right was unhappy — they, 
after all, supported protectionism for lo- 
cal industry. The government, propped 
up by foreign loans from American 
banks, pursued the principle of free trade, 
i.e. the dumping of foreign, often ob- 
solete, merchandise on the local market 
at prices way below those for locaUy pro- 
duced goods. This led to numerous fac- 
tory closings and a high rate of unem- 
ployment. Coincidentally, Jose Martinez 
de Hoz, the Minister of the Economy 
from 1976 to 1983, who oversaw the de- 
industrialization of the country, had 
worked for John D. Rockefeller III be- 
fore the coup. As a token of support 
for his disastrous economic policy, Rock- 
efeller's Chase Manhattan Bank chose 
Argentina as the site of its international 
board of directors' meeting in 1980. 

The military was also on extremely 
friendly terms with the Soviet Union, 
which became Argentina's largest trading 
partner after the Carter grain embargo. 
Russian films were shown in the down- 
town cinemas, the Moscow Circus came 
every summer, and the Moscow Circus 
on Ice came in the winter. South Africa, 
however, was the military's favorite ally. 
It considered Argentina and South Africa 
as the bulwarks of Western Civilization, 
a civilization that had become decadent 
in the countries of its origin in the north- 
ern hemisphere. 

As a foreigner, and as an English 
teacher and journalist, I took the oppor- 
tunity to discuss the political situation 
with everyone I met. Except for people 



on the left, the most common posture 
was defensive. In 1979, a Jewish busi- 
ness woman just returned from Europe 
repeated the government's charge that 
reports of human rights violations were 
part of a Montonero propaganda cam- 
paign orchestrated in Paris. In 1980, a 
police captain of mixed Indian and 
Spanish descent told me that Latin 
Americans are not as civilized zts North 
Americans and have to be treated more 
brutally. An insurance agent said Ar- 
gentina would be ready for democracy 
when it could elect a man like Reagan 
as president. A secret report by a Jewish 
agency which I translated into English 
in 1979 claimed that Jews had not been 
singled out for arrests and disappearances, 
while lamenting the fact that the Jewish 
community did not have closer ties with 
the government because, traditionally, 
Jews had not chosen careers in the armed 
forces. But the saddest response, which 
came from many lips, was "A country 
gets the government it deserves." These 
were the words Juan Peron used when 

he was in exile in Spain. 

A trend as common in Latin Ameri- 
ca as military coups is the military ceding 
power back to civilian rule once it has 
done so much economic harm that it no 
longer wants to take responsibility for 
governing. This happened in Peru and 
Brazil, and it also happened in Argen- 
tina. The military fell in 1983, the vic- 
tim of a sordid campaign in the Falk- 
lands Islands. It fought the war badly 
and corruptly. Like a bully suddenly 
exposed as a coward and a fraud, it lost 
its hold over the nation. 

So it is that the ruling Radical party 
government of Raul Alfonsin is strapped 
with a 53 billion dollar foreign debt and 
triple-digit inflation. Considering the 
by-now chronic economic crisis the 
country faces, many question the wis- 
dom of paying back the debt. At the very 
least, they argue there should be a ceil- 
ing on debt payments as there is now in 
Peru, under the socialist government 
of Alan Garcia. The most vociferous 
critics of debt repayment at the current 

rate are the Peronists who scored a start- 
ling comeback in last September's by- 
elections by winning the governorships 
of 16 of the country's 22 provinces. The 
day after the elections, the stock market 
fell and the price of the dollar rose on the 
black market. (Presumably, the day that 
workers vote for longer hours and less 
pay the stock market will rise and the 
price of gold will fall.) 

The presidents of two of the three 
military juntas that ruled the country be- 
tween 1976 and 1983, along with another 
member of the first junta, are now ser- 
ving life terms for their role in the mur- 
ders and tortures. But the thousands of 
soldiers, policemen and hired thugs who 
did the actual murdering and torturing 
have not been, and will not be, prose- 
cuted. Nor have the bankers and busi- 
nessmen who profited from the foreign 
loans that supported the military dicta- 
torship. A 

— ty Ana Logue 

Ana Logue was a reporter on the Buenos 
Aires Herald/row 1979 to 1981. 

li > ^ >^^ ^ > ^ ^ ^ > ^ > ^ >^.^ '^ ^ ^ ^ '^ ^ '^ ^ ^ ^ ^ - ^^ X ^ > ^ >»^ ^ ^ i» ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ .^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ '^ ^ ^ 












Psst, AMIGO: 

Wanna Buy Sonne Pulque, 

<-t the Mexico City airport half a dozen taxi 
drivers swarm around me: "Hotel, hotel?" I choose 
a thin-haired older man, out of deference to his age, 
I suppose. He will soon be beyond the age when he 
can hustle in this way, and then what will he do? So 
I choose him, thinking that in doing so I might be 
contributing, albeit infmitesimally, to his old-age 
security. A typical absurd reflex of gringo charity. 
It must have been the long flight. "Take me right 
downtown," I tell him. "To the Havana." 

"No way. Havana's tumbled down. The earth- 

"Yeah? Well, take me to another one like it in 
that area." 

"Impossible. All downtown's gone." His hands 
make a smooth razing motion. 

I know this is a lie. The 1985 earthquake was bad, 
but not that bad. I know for a 
fact, though, that several of the 
ritziest downtown hotels really 
got it: the Del Prado, for in- 
stance. Ironic that the fancy 
places suffered so, while many 
more wretched buildings were 
left standing. I fantasize on 
another irony: that the bizarre 
force of the quake might some- 
how have exposed the spot 
where Diego Rivera wrote "God 
doesn't exist" on his great Del 
Prado lobby mural (which was 
left standing); a mural that the 
authorities kept completely veiled for years until 
Rivera, tired of the battle, finally agreed to paint 
over the offending words. 

"But I know of a very good hotel not far from 
here," he says rapidly as he flies around a corner. 
"A very good hotel, neither rascuache [itchy, as in 
bedbug] nor expensive." 

"Oh, all right." You old fart. I'm too tired to ar- 
gue with him. 

He bolts into the hotel with my bags in his hand 
and makes sure everyone at the front desk sees that 
it is he who has brought me. That way he can be 
sure to collect his "commission." The room costs 
about twice what it's worth, and I imagine a goodly 

Televisa, I now discover, is 

a colossal media octopus with 

virtual monopoly on Mexican 

television. . . The values it 

hopes to communicate are 

clear enough: consumerism, 

anti-communism, the 

superiority of 

Caucasian culture. 

percentage of this will go straight to the cabbie's 
pocket. So much for charity. (I give him a generous 
tip anyway, out of pride; now more than ever in 
Mexico, pride is the only thing people have left, and 
it is an infectious emotion. So rather than bitch and 
remonstrate, as I might in New York, I adopt an 
attitude of so-called "Latin dignity" and pretend 
that money means nothing to me.) 

Money, however, is the reason I'm down here. I 
know it won't be much, even though my joint bosses 
are the most powerful in Mexico. One of them is 
the Mexican government itself; or more specifically, 
some polity within the Secretariat of Public Edu- 
cation. The other boss is the most powerful com- 
pany in Mexico: Televisa, the television near- 
monopoly. The project they have hired me for is 
still not altogether clear to me. Perhaps it is not al- 
together clear to them either; 
the fog surrounding the inter- 
actions of private and public 
capital in Mexico is so opaque 
that the principal players some- 
times seem confused even 
among themselves. 

The hotel is comfortable 
enough, but hideous in a horror 
house kind of way. Dark red 
plush seems to be the fabric of 
choice for its curtains and up- 
holstery; jagged chandeliers hang 
menacingly from the ceiling 
(especially worrisome to the 
quake-conscious); and in the dimly-lit restaurant 
the next morning they are showingyaa;^ on a giant 
screen VCR, maimed limbs and vivid splashes of 
blood to go with one's breakfast, while at the bar 
five rumpled men and a long-limbed woman in 
ghastly make-up sip garishly-colored drinks and 
boisterously carry on with last night's binge. I make 
it my first task to get back to the good old Havana 
(it is still standing, just as I suspected), with its 
three pleasant concierges and its wholesome odor 
of chicken broth. 

I'm settled in at the Havana, and now it's off to 
work. I find only standing room in the elevated 
metro car that lurches down Avenida Tlalpan. In 




my pocket is a slip of paper with an ad- 
dress provided me in a hush-hush kind 
of way by some folks in a downtown 
Televisa office building. Why the secrecy? 
I wonder. Just part of the general hype, 
I guess. Makes everyone feel more im- 

Everyone on the metro car gawks at 
me. I am taller and much fairer than 
they. They think that I am a stranger 
in a strange land. I am, and I'm not; 
the sidestreets that greet me as I get 
off are both alien and familiar: I have not 
been on them since I was ten. Through- 
out most of my elementary school years 
I rode the school bus through these 
streets, gazing dazedly out at the fort- 
resslike walls of volcanic tezontU rock 
and at the maids dutifully washing the 
sidewalks with soapy water and brooms 
made of branches. Occasionally the 
tedium of the journey would be broken 
by some major or minor horror: a 
rebozo-clad Indian woman carrying a 
stack of tortillas on her head, run down 
in silence by a speeding car that left 
her lying in a phenomenal pool of blood; 
a gang of cudgel-toting students on the 
prowl for school buses and students 
that had dared to defy (as we of the 
American School always did) the general 
student strike; or simply a gaggle of 

//,/■■ ,.,. , \^0 

vM 1 



T J 








military school kids, heads depravedly 
shaved, making obscene gestures to us 
from a street corner. 

Such events did not subtract from the 
fact that this neighborhood — Coyoacan 
— was (and is) one of the city's most chic. 
It is home to many established artists 
and intellectuals, who thrill to its his- 
tory as an independent township within 
the larger Aztec city-state, or as the 
place where Trotsky lived and died, 
or as the location of Diego Rivera's 
and Frida Kahlo's studios. 

Speaking of studios, I notice the ad- 
dress in my pocket is that of a "studio." 
It could not be otherwise, I think; in 
Coyoacan, any wretched office space 
would have to be a "studio." 

The "studio" is a discreet, low slung 
house converted to offices. In front of it 
stand three plainclothes guards, each 
with a big .45 tucked behind his poly- 
ester jacket. One of the guards is stupid, 
another dour, and the third, Reyes, has 
a military correctness contrasted by the 
most exaggerated low-barrio accent I 
have ever heard. As they question me 
suspiciously about my motive for being 
here, I can hear a background hum of a 
dozen word processors, overlain by the 
whoosh of a photocopying machine. 

Abruptly the sounds stop. "jHijos de 

tus MADRES!" cries an enraged voice 
from within the building, followed by the 
sound of a fist slamming plastic. Other 
voices sound relieved, rising gradually 
into generjil jollity. Each windowsill soon 
becomes a perch for a perspiring office 

Apparently the electricity has gone 
out. Later I learn that this normally hap- 
pens only in the evening— and virtually 
every evening— when the circuits become 
overloaded. The enraged voice has 
come from a worker who, having failed 
to have his work memoried, has lost his 
whole morning's labor. He came in extra 
early today; he'll have to work extra late 

The guards are unfazed by the prob- 
lem. They continue, all three of them, 
to search for my name on a list; ap- 
parently they have confused my Anglo 
middle name with my paternal surname. 
Plainly they do not consider the lights 
going out a preliminary to a terrorist 
attack. In fact, Reyes is the only one of 
the three who mentions "terrorists" or 
who seems to take the "terrorist threat" 
seriously at all. 

"With all the gringos working here, 
any ayatollah could come and ..." He 
makes a dramatic bomb-hurling gesture. 

The dour one looks bored. "Better he 



said: any Mexican could come in and 
snatch a gringa." 

The stupid one giggles inanely. 

In truth, most of the employees here 
are themselves Mexican. They, and not 
the foreigners, are the nuts and bolts of 
the organization. Their wages are low 
and their hours long; at any hour of the 
day or night they can be found here, 
slaving away at their word processors. 
Late-night hours have the advantage of 
a less marked sweat-shop atmosphere; 
in the daytime it is so hot and crowded 
that upon entering the building, I feel 
nauseated. As the lights flicker back on 
and the machines begin to hum again, 
a blonde, middle-aged woman with an 
unlikely patrician name and mannerisms 
to match locates me. She's the boss here, 
contracted by Televisa for this part of 
the project. Some say she's Lithuanian- 
Mexican; others claim she's North 
American. Her English, in any case, is 

"I assume you know something about 
AMIGO," she says briskly. 

What I know about it is about as 
muddled as the name for which the 
AMIGO acronym stands: Access Infor- 
mation Mexico for Global Output. My 
best bet is that it's some sort of data 
bank. All I really know is that I'm sup- 
posed to do some writing translations. 
So just give me the stuff, lady. 

She does. A whole stack of it. It touches 
on all topics Mexican: history, natural 
resources, current political issues. Most 
of it is written in the turgid prose of 
Hispanic academe. My mission: to de- 
flate this heap into the pithy phrasing of 
contemporary American journalese. The 
final step is to translate this English ver- 
sion back into Spanish. Okay, well, what- 
ever. I like the challenge, I've internalized 
it already, it feels like a big fart waiting 
to be released. 

'Not folksy," she warns. "Just readable." 

So far so good. I've managed to get 
my hands on a small manual typewriter 
and am sitting outside under the shade 
of a capultn tree. 

An Englishman sees me and takes pity. 
"There's a spare machine inside, sir. 
Have you ever used a word processor? 
We use WordStar. It's easy." 

"Ah, no. No thanks. I like the slap of 
the keys, if you know what I mean." I 
myself am not sure what I mean, but 
there's a cool breeze out here and any- 
way, no, I don't know how to use a word 
processor. Am unfriendly towards them. 
An accomplice at Processed World, a cer- 
tain Morales, once accused me of being 
a "neo-Luddite," which is surely some- 
thing of an exaggeration. But why, I 
wonder, do the worst writers I know in- 
variably have the fanciest word proces- 

I plow through the first few articles 
and turn them in. They come back al- 
most immediately, brought by a big, 
worried looking man from California 
(the blonde woman's concubine, say the 
malas lenguas of the joint). 

"Um," he says. "Um, there's some 
parts in here that aren't quite right. Let's 
see. When you speak here of a 'pall of 
pollution over Mexico City,' that's not 
really the kind of impression we're try- 
ing to give." 

"Even though it's the first impression 
you get of the place?" 

"Right," he says, chuckling nervously. 
"And this one about the sea turtles. Just 
mention that the government is doing 
its best to protect them. You know, 
something a little more upbeat. We're 
trying to do something pretty positive 
here at AMIGO. Something kind of 
perky. And this one about Pancho Villa. 
I'll agree that it's kind of a tricky one. 
To Americans he's a bandit, to the Mexi- 
cans he's a hero of the Revolution. But 
we'll just try to do it so it doesn't of- 
fend too many people on either side." 

Ahaa. I see. I've got to honey my hack- 
work. Hmmm, maybe I should have 
found out a little more about AMIGO 
before I took this job. In particular, 
maybe I should have found out a little 
more about the company directly in 
charge of it: Televisa. 

Televisa, I now discover, is a colos- 
sal media octopus with a virtual mono- 
poly on Mexican television as well as 
ownership of a slew of film and recording 
studios, publishing houses, movie thea- 
ters, and radio stations. It broadcasts 
over 400 hours a week of television, more 
than any other broadcasting company 
in the world. Though its profits are a 
close secret, the values it hopes to com- 
municate are clear enough: consumerism, 
anti-communism, the superiority of 
Caucasian culture. Even the Wall Street 
Journal has to admit that "Televisa func- 
tions as the nation's effective ministry of 
culture, education and truth." 

Televisa's influence is not limited to 
Mexico. It exports up to 30,000 hours 
of programming a year to South America 
and the U.S. Its U.S. affiliate Univision 
reaches over three million North Ameri- 
can households with its execrable soap 
operas (such as The Rich Also Weep, 
tailored to make the poor feel better 
about their lot) and conservative news- 
casts (invariably hostile to Cuba and the 
Central American liberation movements). 

And where does the AMIGO project 
come in, I wonder? Well, it's like this: 
ever since the oil bust of the early 80's, 
Mexico has been searching for a way to 
cushion the collapse of its economy. One 
obvious choice was the old fallback. 



tourism. What was needed, the govern- 
ment decided, was a kind of clearing- 
house for information about the country: 
not information directly for tourists, but 
rather for writers and journalists who 
write about Mexico. Televisa was handed 
the assignment, and the company came 
up with AMIGO. 

The final AMIGO product is. housed 
in the International Press Center, a 
brand-new building in the swank Polanco 
district. I decide that night that before I 
go back to Coyoacan to do any more 
"translating," I should check this "Press 
Center" out. The building is an impres- 
sive piece of architecture featuring a 
soaring, light-filled atrium. Ersatz Indian 
pots, stelae, and stone carvings are stra- 
tegically placed throughout its interior. 
It pullulates with young employees in 
electric-blue jackets, who hustle visitors 
between sterile rooms in which compu- 
terized accounts of Mexican non-history 
and current un- reality are presented. 
What you are supposed to do in these 
rooms is enter a code number on the 
terminal — the code for Pancho Villa, say 
— and on the big screen appears the 
bloodless "translation" plus accompany- 
ing graphics. 

On leaving the Press Center, I see the 
real story of Mexico squatting on the 
pavement outside: an entire family of 
Indian beggars: a mother, a father and 
two little barefoot girls in braids. The 
mother and father stare at my huarache 
sandals, which are just like theirs. They 
whisper, "Huaraches, Huaraches!" In 
Mexico City, only gringos and Indians 
wear huaraches. They whisper a few 
more words to each other in a hushed, 
consonant-rich language I do not under- 
stand. I say good morning zind they beam. 
"Where are you from?" I ask. 

"Tlaxcala," the man says. (The little 
girls are afraid, but the woman looks at 
me with a meek curiosity). Was the 
language I heard them speaking Na- 
huatl? "Yes. Yes!" he replies, but I get 
the feeling he is only trying to be agree- 
able. In relating to the white man, these 
Indians have long ago given up on try- 
ing to be anything other than agreeable. 

The AMIGO project lionizes Indians. 
The "brother Indian" and his ways are 
part of Mexico's "great patrimony." Now, 
to find out all about these particular 
Indians, all I would have to do is turn 
around and go back into the Press Cen- 
ter and enter "Tlaxcala" on one of the 
computers. After all, you can't really be- 
lieve anything the Indians themselves 
tell you, can you? The computer will 
tell you everything you need to know 
about the lore and languages and color- 
ful customs of the people of Tlzixcala. 

by Mars Mensch 

It will also conveniently forget to inform 
you that Tlaxcala is one of the country's 
poorest states, and that people like the 
family outside flee by the thousands 
every year to a better life begging on the 
streets of Mexico City. 

My pocketbook demands that I be 
cynical about the whole thing and report 
promptly back to work. Anyway, I ra- 
tionalize, AMIGO is essentially harm- 
less, since any journalist worth his salt 
is going to see right through it. Still, it's 
pretty sickening. It's a major white ele- 
phant: well over $100,000 is being laid 
out for the translations alone, and the 
cost of the entire project ascends into 
the millions. That's a lot of money to 
throw away in a place like Mexico. 

I'm back now at the "studio," but I 
can't bring myself to go to work. Instead 
I linger at the gate, shooting the shit 
with the guards. Reyes has brought a jug 
of pulque with him today (pulque is the 
fermented sap of the succulent maguey 
plant). He's facing a 24-hour shift (the 
guards each earn $80 a month) and has 
to have something to pass the time. 
Reyes lives in the tough barrio of Tepito 
("where they'll steal your underwear 
without lowering your pants"); he says 
the pulque he gets there is "very, very 
fresh." We try it. It is tangy and good — 
almost effervescent. In another day or 
two it will begin to get rancid and turn 
into "buzzard broth," Reyes says. 

Reyes was in the Mexican army for 

seven years. He has brought his scrap- 
book with him, and shows us photo- 
graphs from those days. In one he is 
standing over a row of prostrate bodies, 
his assault rifle trained on them. 

"What, did you shoot all these folks?" 
I ask, startled. 

"Naw. They're under arrest." And he 
shouts, "/Detenidosf," and points an ima- 
ginary rifle at the ground. 

"They're marijuana growers," he ex- 
plains after this dramatic illustration of 
arrest procedure. "We arrested them as 
a favor to the gringos. We burned their 
fields. But we kept the best parts for 
ourselves. The very tips of the plants." 

"Is that all you did in the army? Raid 
marijuana fields?" 

"Mostly. I was stationed in Guerrero. 
Guerrero is a dangerous place. The 
people there are nervous and hot-tem- 
pered, like all people from the hotlands. 
Sometimes we were sent out to hunt for 
Lucio Cabanas. He was a guerrilla. A 
communist. Finally we got him. That 
was in 1974. I think it was in 1974." 
Reyes left the army in disaffection a few 
years ago. 

"It was all bullshit," he says. 'Pendejadas. 
Burning mota for the gringos. Chasing 
Lucio Cabanas. My heroes are Pancho 
Villa and Emiliano Zapata. Cabanas 
was not so different from them, <;no?" 

"I shudder to think what AMIGO 
might write about Lucio Cabanas. (As 
it happens, they ignore him altogether.) 



Then I suddenly remember I am sup- 
posed to be at my table, revising my 
piece about Pancho Villa. But on second 
thought, I think I am already too drunk. 
We drink some more. Reyes has lost all 
concern about trying to keep the jug dis- 
crete. He promises to bring some good 
mota the next time. I believe he has for- 
gotten about the terrorists. 

I stagger back to the metro, thinking 
I would enjoy writing the piece on pul- 
que. But I think it's already been done; 
I believe I saw it listed on the printout. I 
wonder who did it. Probably someone 
who has never tried the stuff. Some 
criollo from a private school who con- 
siders it, as most do, a low-class, loath- 
some beverage. One of these upper-class 
intellectuzils who show up every so often 
at the studio, the kind who give plenty of 
lip service to Mexico and the "autoch- 
thonously Mexican," and who can maybe 
even rattle off the names of some of the 
400 pulque gods of antiquity but who 
prefer to toast their Televisa bosses with 
American whiskey. 

Well, I can see I've got an attitude. 
My masters can see it too; and they 
have begun to take notice of my absen- 
teeism. They try the carrot: would I be 
happier moving to another hotel, one 
closer to the studio? The company will 

pick up the tab. I decline. Out of curio- 
sity, though, I check out the hotel. Just 
as I thought, it's like the one the cabbie 
took me to: garish, and full of hideous 
nouveau-riche types, all teeth and jewelry. 
I suspect Televisa owns the hotel. 

Thrashing around in my bed at the 
Havana, watching Televisa's Channel 2 
(incessant ads for Fud, pronounced 
"food," a spam-like processed meat pro- 
duct), I ask myself: if Reyes can quit 
the army, why can't I quit Televisa? 

Okay, I quit. But for now I'm having 
trouble collecting my paycheck for the 
work I've done. The man with whom I 
must deal is a weasly bureaucrat ("pale 
and long as a badwater tapeworm" as 
Reyes describes him) who must always 
be addressed as "Licenciado," the title 
conferred upon lawyers. Quite probably 
he is a thief and a corrupto, and that is 
what I finally suggest to him: "So how 
do you plan to spend my money. Lie?" 

His underlings have overheard the 
remark. The Lie. is furious. He must 
show everyone that what this gringo 
wants is mere petty cash to him, so he 
digs into his pocket, pulls out a wad, and 
counts, slapping each bill into my hand: 
"Ten thousand, sixty thousand, one- 
hundred ten . . ."Am I humiliated? Sure, 
but who isn't? The struggle for the peso 

is constant and always humiliating. 

What do the unemployed do in Mexico 
City? They go to the movies a lot. They're 
cheap enough, and there are many ex- 
ploitation features appropriate for the 
frustrated: Women's Prison, Savage Women, 
Rats of the City, Strange Perversions, Attack 
in Tijuana. The posters are very bloody. 
I think I can do without these flicks. 
I'm not yet the hard-core unemployed, 
and after all, I'm a privileged gringo 
and can always go back to gringolandia. 
So I decide to take a walk. I head up the 
Paseo de la Reforma ("Mexico City's 
Champs Elysees," AMIGO calls it) to- 
ward the colonial palaces where the rich 
live. I skirt the edge of Polanco. I am 
looking up at the International Press 
Center building when I hear those fami- 
liar whispery, conspiratorial voices: 
"Huaraches, huaraches!" I peer into the 
penumbra of an empty, earthquake- 
damaged building and there, sitting 
around the ashes of an extinct campfire, 
I see the Indian family, the man grinning 
his wide grin. Again the perverse thought 
occurs to me: to turn away from them 
without a word and, like a good amigo, 
go around the block to the Press Center 
and enter "Huaraches" on the terminal. A 

— by Granny 


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